Refugee & Immigrant Program

Excerpt from The Energy of a Nation: Immigrants in America (Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights, 1997)

alien  A person who is not a citizen of the country in which he or she lives.

A legal alien is someone who lives in a foreign country with the approval of that country.

An illegal or undocumented alien is someone who lives in a foreign country without the legal approval of that country.

asylum legal permission to live in a country given by its government to people fleeing danger or persecution in their original homelands.

A country of asylum grants a person asylum.

A country of first asylum gives a person temporary asylum until he or she leaves it for another country.

A person who seeks safety in a foreign country from danger at home is an asylum seeker.

advocacy Pleading the cause of others: the act of upholding or defending as valid or right.

country of origin A refugees native land.

deport To force someone to leave a country.

A deportee is usually someone who is not a native of the country and is ejected by that country.

detainee An alien in the custody of government authorities who is waiting for officials to decide if he or she may stay in the country or will be forced to leave. Also called internee.

displaced person A person who has been forced by dangerous circumstances to leave home for a place of safety within the home country.

The dangerous circumstances could be natural disasters such as droughts or storms or they could be persecution or social unrest such as wars or revolutions.

If a person flees to a place within the home country, he or she is called displaced. If that person flees to another country, he or she is called a refugee.

emigrate To go from one region or country and settle in another.

Emigrants are people who leave their home countries to settle elsewhere.

exile To send someone out of a place; to banish.

Unlike a deportee, who is forced to leave a country where he or she is not a citizen, an exile is a person who is forced to leave his or her home country.

When a legal decree or banishment forces a person to leave, he or she is in involuntary exile.

When circumstances cause a person to leave, he or she is in voluntary exile.

family reunification Americans can sponsor their close relatives to live with them in the United States.

green card A slang term describing the permit that indicates that a person who is not a citizen has been granted legal permanent resident status in the United States. Such a "resident alien" can live and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation unless he or she commits a serious criminal offense or lives outside the country for more than two years.

human rights Fundamental rights regarded as belonging to all people. Found in many treaties and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, passed by the United Nations General Assembly in1948.

immigrate To move to a country where one is not a native.

Immigrants are people who come to a country where they intend to settle permanently and obtain citizenship.

A legal immigrant is a person who comes to settle in a country with the legal permission of its government.

An illegal immigrant is a person residing in a country without the legal permission of its government.

INS: Immigration and Naturalization Service The government agency that administers the countrys immigration law and procedures.

migrate To move from one place and settle in another.

Migratory people are those who must regularly move from place to place. Migration may occur when hunters follow seasonal moves of game or herders need new grasses for their livestock; migration may also result from natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions or droughts, or from social disorders such as wars and revolutions.

A migrant is any person or animal that moves from place to place.

Migrant workers or economic migrants must travel from place to place, sometimes from country to country, to find employment. This migration is often determined by what crops need harvesting and in which season.

naturalization The process whereby an immigrant becomes a citizen. Naturalized citizens in the United States have all the rights of native-born citizens except election to certain public offices such as the Presidency.

NGO Acronym for NonGovernmental Organization. The Red Cross, CARE, and OXFAM are examples of international NGOs.

pull factors Conditions that attract an immigrant to the country of immigration.

push factors Conditions within a country that lead people to move away from their home and country.

refoulement When a person is forcibly returned to the home country where his or her life or freedom would be threatened.

refuge Protection or shelter; relief; a place to which one goes for help, comfort, or escape.

refugee A person who leaves his or her country of origin because of a "well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion." (Definition used by U.S. Refugee Act of 1980 and the United Nations.)

Persons meeting that definition may be eligible for political asylum or refugee status.

A significant number of refugees sharing a similar background is referred to as a refugee community.

The term economic refugee is sometimes used to describe someone who does not meet the refugee definition because his or her survival is threatened not by persecution but by conditions like poverty or famine.

repatriate To return someone to his or her home country.

Voluntary repatriation is when a person chooses to return to the home country. This may occur when the danger that threatened the person has ended.

Involuntary repatriation, forced repatriation, or refoulement occurs when a person is forced to return to the home country against his or her will. This may occur when the country where a person seeks asylum does not recognize that person as a refugee; i.e., a person with a "well-founded fear of persecution."

resettlement Moving a refugee from the country of first asylum to another country where he or she can settle permanently. Resettlement occurs when the refugee has no hope of returning safely to the home country.

People waiting to be moved from the country of first asylum are often kept in resettlement camps until a place of resettlement can be found in another country.

sponsor A U.S. company or person who files a petition for an alien to enter the United States as a legal immigrant.

undocumented immigrant A person who enters or stays in a country without legal permission. Also called illegal alien.

UNHCR Acronym for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

visa A permit granted to aliens that allows them to enter the United States. There are two basic kinds of visas: temporary visas (like those used by tourists visiting the United States.) And permanent, or immigrant visas (for those who are applying to stay in the United States on a long-term basis).

work-based immigration If a company is looking to fill a position and cannot find someone in the U.S. to do the job, it is allowed to look elsewhere in the world to find a qualified person. This person must have special skills, such as an expertise in a particular field, in order for the company to be permitted to sponsor her.

sources: The Uprooted, American Immigration Lawyers Association, and Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights

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