Definition of Terms
While some educators may use Moving Stories to kick-off a unit on immigration, or human migration, others may want to incorporate lessons on the app after introducing historical, literary, or scientific context about migration.
People often use the words immigrant, immigration, migrant, migration and refugee without knowing the distinctions between them. Below are definitions with a little commentary.
Migration: To move from one country, place, or locality to another. Currently, for example, there are over 250 million people living in countries outside of where they were born. Further, millions migrate within their own borders every year.
Migrant: Simply put, a migrant is someone who has moved from their birthplace. According to the United Nations a migrant is “any person who lives temporarily or permanently in a country where he or she was not born, and has acquired some significant social ties” to this new place. Some migrants move by choice (see immigrants below). Others have been forced to move by events that were beyond their control (see refugees below); another example is of forced migration is the involuntary migration of African slaves to the New world. Some migrants move across national borders and some move within national borders (like the Dust Bowl Migrants from Arkansas to California or the Great African American Migration from the South to North). Still others are take annual cyclical patterns (like for seasonal farm work).
Immigrant: An immigrant is someone who moves to a new country with the intent live permanently. It is often implied that immigrants had some degree of choice in their (or their families) decision to move. Some immigrants are granted official Federal recognition (a variety of temporary visas; permanent residency; or citizenship) while many are in limbo or may not be granted official recognition leading to undocumented status. Within the same family, some members may be citizens and others may not.
Refugee: A refugee is someone who is forced to move to a new place (either within their own borders or to a new country) to escape danger or persecution. An increasing number of refugees are being forced to flee because of environmental disasters. In 1951, the United Nations created a convention that legally defined the word refugee and subsequent U.N. conventions elaborated on the responsibility of the international community toward refugees. Refugees may seek asylum; as they await official Federal or national recognition they are considered temporary asylum seekers.
If you are teaching in the U.S. context, we have linked to a timeline of immigration to the United States from the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation.