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Illegal immigration

The meaning of «illegal immigration»

Illegal immigration refers to the migration of people into a country in violation of the immigration laws of that country, or the continued residence without the legal right to live in that country. Illegal immigration tends to be financially upward, from poorer to richer countries.[1] Illegal residence in another country creates the risk of detention, deportation, and/or other sanctions.[2]

Asylum seekers who are denied asylum may face impediment to expulsion if the home country refuses to receive the person or if new asylum evidence emerges after the decision. In some cases, these people are considered illegal aliens, and in others, they may receive a temporary residence permit, for example with reference to the principle of non-refoulement in the international Refugee Convention. The European Court of Human Rights, referring to the European Convention on Human Rights, has shown in a number of indicative judgments that there are enforcement barriers to expulsion to certain countries, for example, due to the risk of torture.[3]

The terminology surrounding illegal immigration is often controversial. In particular, describing people who immigrated illegally as illegal immigrants has been a matter of debate. It is nevertheless commonly used in formal contexts, among others by the US and by the Canadian governments. Title 8 of the US Code is the portion of United States law that contains legislation on citizenship, nationality, and immigration. Defining the legal term alien as "any person not a citizen or national of the United States,"[4] the terminology used in Title 8 includes illegal alien (33 times), unauthorized alien (21 times), undocumented alien (18 times), illegal immigrant (6 times), undocumented person (2 times), and others.[5] An analysis by PolitiFact, however, concluded that the term illegal alien "occurs scarcely, often undefined or part of an introductory title or limited to apply to certain individuals convicted of felonies."[6]

There are campaigns that discourage the use of the term illegal immigrant, generally based on the argument that the act of immigrating illegally does not make the people themselves illegal, but rather they are "people who have immigrated illegally." In Europe, the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM) launched its international "Words Matter"[7] campaign in 2014 to promote the use of the terms undocumented or irregular migrants instead of illegal.[8][9][10][11] Depending on jurisdiction, culture, or context, alternatives to illegal alien or illegal immigrant can include irregular migrant, undocumented immigrant, undocumented person, and unauthorized immigrant.[12][13][5][4]

In some contexts the term illegal immigrants is shortened, often pejoratively,[14] to illegals.[15][16][17][18]

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