Illegal immigrants don’t exist … until after 1930

Reblogging a post by Fabio Rojas, Associate Professor of Sociology at Indiana University, about the use of “illegal” migration terminology over the last century. Graph sourced from Google books Ngram Viewer.


According to immigration scholar and advocate Francesca Pizzutelli, the phrase “illegal immigrant” did not exist in English (or was insanely rare) before the 1930s. Rather, people used the phrase “irregular immigrant” for transitory labor. The bias against outsiders exists in all societies, but this suggests that the modern legal and cultural edifice that bars people from migrating peacefully to the US did not exist till the series of anti-immigration laws passed by Congress in the 1920s.

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