Spanish Immigration

Spanish Immigration

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In 1513 the Spanish explorer, Ponce De Leon discovered Florida. Five years later another captain from Spain, Cabeza de Vaca, led a small party that explored parts of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Other Spanish adventurers who made important discoveries included Francisco Coronado who traveled up the Colorado River (1540) and Hernando de Soto who explored the Mississippi River (1541).

In the 16th century Spain took control of Florida, California and the south-west region of America. About 200,000 Spaniards migrated to the new world and founded some 200 settlements in the Americas. St. Augustine, Florida, founded by Pedro Merendez in 1565, was the first permanent settlement established by Europeans in what is now the United States. Other important settlement established by the Spanish in America included Sante Fe, Albuquerque, El Paso, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, San Jose, Monterey, and Los Angeles. The Spanish mined precious metals and was able to ship back to Europe large quantities of gold and silver.

In 1810 the United States annexed West Florida. Three years later the Americans seized the area around Mobile. When Seminoes based in Florid began raiding American settlements in 1817, Spain was warned that it must either police her territory properly or grant it to the United States. Unable to spare troops desperately needed to hold onto her Latin American colonies, Spain agreed to sell Florida in 1819 to the United States for $5 million.

By 1846 there were about 8,000 Spaniards living in California. There was an estimated 500 Americans but this changed when gold was discovered in January, 1848 on land owned by John Sutter in California. News soon spread about the discovery and by 1849 over 100,000 people had arrived in search of gold. The Americans who now clearly outnumbered the Spaniards, organized a government and in 1850 California was admitted as the 31st state of the Union. After it lost all its territory in America, emigration from Spain was negligible.

Spanish americans

Similar in climatic zones, area, and population to California, Spain occupies the greater part of the Iberian peninsula in southwestern Europe. Spain's Latin name, Hispania (Land of Rabbits), was given by Carthaginian settlers at the dawn of recorded history. Colonized by a series of important civilizations, it became heir to the cultures not only of Carthage but also of Greece and Rome. It was the home country of legionaries, several emperors, and philosophers, including Seneca, the founder of Stoicism. Later, with the fall of the empire, it was settled by Germanic Visigoths, then Arabs and Moors. As the center of the first world empire of the modern era, Spain imposed its culture and language on peoples in many parts of the globe. By the beginning of the twenty-first century it is estimated that there will be more people in the world who speak Spanish (330 million) than English.

Although politically unified since the reign of the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabel in the late fifteenth century, Spain continues to be divided by regional loyalties. Individual Spaniards, whether living in Spain or abroad, usually think of the patria (the fatherland) not as the entire nation, but rather as the area of the country where they were raised. This tendency has not diminished in recent years in fact, the government has moved toward a less centralized form of rule by dividing the country into autonomías (autonomous areas) linked to Madrid (Spain's capital city) in a loose federalism that accommodates and even encourages more local control than the country has known for centuries.

Among the major regions in Spain are Castile, which includes the capital city of Madrid Cataluña, which includes the city of Barcelona Andalucía, which includes Seville Extremadura Galicia and the Basque Country.

While centralist regimes of the past favored a standard national language, the Spanish government today encourages the schooling in and general use of regional dialects and languages. Galicians, for example, who occupy the northwest corner of the peninsula, speak Gallego. It is a language that reflects in vocabulary and structure the region's proximity to Portugal, to the south, and Castile, to the east. Residents of Cataluña speak Catalan, a Romance language that shares many features with other Romance languages such as Spanish and French but that is distinct from them. In Castile, the country's central region, the residents speak Castellano, which is also the language of most Latin American countries and, outside of Spain, is commonly thought of as the standard Spanish language.

Basques, who call themselves Euskaldunak, meaning "speakers of Euskera," occupy a small area of Spain known as the Basque Country the Basque word for this region is Euzkadi. Located in the north central part of the country, and no more than 100 miles long in any direction, Euzkadi is considered by its inhabitants as part of the same ethnic nation found across the border in southwestern France. In contrast to Gallego, the Basque ancestral language, Euskera, appears unrelated to any other dialect in Spain or elsewhere, with the possible exception of some vocabulary items found in the area of the Black Sea. Basque culture is considered the oldest in Europe, predating even the prehistoric arrival of the Indo-European peoples.

Today, with the exception of enclaves on the north coast of Morocco, the Spanish empire is gone it has been replaced by a constitutional monarchy modeled on the British system. While emigration is currently at low levels, from 1882 to 1947 some five million Spaniards emigrated (eventually about 3.8 million of those returned to Spain). Half went to Argentina, which, as a large, sparsely populated country, took active measures to attract Europeans historically, Argentina is second only to the United States in the number of all immigrants received. A number of Spanish immigrants settled in Cuba, a colony of Spain until the Spanish-American War in 1898, and many Spaniards moved to what is now the United States.


In the first century of Spain's presence in the New World, many of the explorers and soldiers came from Andalucía (in the South) and Extremadura (in the West), two of the poorest regions of the country. The early and lasting influence of these immigrants explains why the standard dialect spoken today in the Western Hemisphere retains the pronunciation used in the South, instead of the characteristics of the older variant still spoken by those living north of Madrid. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the region that has produced the most emigrants has been Galicia, together with similar parts of Old Castile that border it on the south. During most of this time Galicia has been an isolated, un-industrialized corner of the peninsula. Its inheritance laws either divided farms among all the siblings in a family, resulting in unworkably small minifundios, or denied land entirely to all but the first born. In either case the competition for land was intense, compelling many Galicians to seek their fortunes elsewhere.

Adjoining Galicia to the east on Spain's north coast is Asturias, which also sent large numbers of immigrants overseas. Until the nineteenth century its economic situation was similar to that in Galicia, but it later became a national leader in industrial development based on coal mining, metal working, and ship building. The above-average level of occupational skills possessed by the Asturian immigrants contributed significantly to the characterization of Spanish immigrants as highly skilled workers.

The southern provinces of Spain, which include Almería, Málaga, Granada, and the Canary Islands, have been another major source of Spanish immigration to the United States. A number of factors combined to compel citizens to leave these regions: the hot, dry climate the absence of industry and a latifundio system of large ranches that placed agriculture under the control of a landed caste.

Basques have also immigrated to the United States in large numbers. Traditionally both hardy mountain farmers as well as seafaring people, they may have reached the coasts of the New World before Columbus. Basques stood out in the exploration of the Americas, both as soldiers and members of the crews that sailed for the Spanish. Prominent in the civil service and colonial administration, they were accustomed to overseas travel and residence. Another reason for their emigration besides the restrictive inheritance laws in the Basque Country, was the devastation from the Napoleonic Wars in the first half of the nineteenth century, which was followed by defeats in the two Carlist civil wars. (For more information about the Basque, and immigrants to the United States from this region, please see the essay on Basque Americans)


In colonial times there were a number of Spanish populations in the New World with governments answerable to Madrid. The first settlement was in Florida, followed by others in New Mexico, California, Arizona, Texas, and Louisiana. In 1598, when the first New Mexican town was established, there were about 1,000 Spaniards north of Mexico today, their descendants are estimated at 900,000. Since the founding of the United States, an additional 250,000 immigrants have arrived either directly from Spain or following a relatively short sojourn in a Latin American country.

The earliest Spanish settlements north of Mexico (known then as New Spain) were the result of the same forces that later led the English to come to that area. Exploration had been fueled in part by imperial hopes for the discovery of wealthy civilizations. In addition, like those aboard the Mayflower, most Spaniards came to the New World seeking land to farm, or occasionally, as historians have recently established, freedom from religious persecution. A substantial number of the first settlers to New Mexico, for instance, were descendants of Spanish Jews who had been compelled to leave Spain.

Immigration to the United States from Spain was minimal but steady during the first half of the nineteenth century, with an increase during the 1850s and 1860s resulting from the social disruption of the Carlist civil wars. Much larger numbers of Spanish immigrants entered the country in the first quarter of the twentieth century—27,000 in the first decade and 68,000 in the second—due to the same circumstances of rural poverty and urban congestion that led other Europeans to emigrate in that period. In 1921, however, the U.S. government enacted a quota system that favored northern Europeans, limiting the number of entering Spaniards to 912 per year, an amount soon reduced further to 131.

The Spanish presence in the United States continued to diminish, declining sharply between 1930 and 1940 from a total of 110,000 to 85,000. Many immigrants moved either back to Spain or to another Hispanic country. Historically, Spaniards have often lived abroad, usually in order to make enough money to return home to an enhanced standard of living and higher social status. In Spanish cities located in regions that experienced heavy emigration at the beginning of the twentieth century, such as the port city of Gijón in Asturias, there are wealthy neighborhoods usually referred to as concentrations of indianos, people who became rich in the New World and then returned to their home region.

Beginning with the Fascist revolt against the Spanish Republic in 1936 and the devastating civil war that ensued, General Francisco Franco established a reactionary dictatorship that ruled Spain for 40 years. At the time of the Fascist takeover, a small but prominent group of liberal intellectuals fled into exile in the United States. After the civil war the country endured 20 years of extreme poverty. As a result, when relations between Spain and most other countries were at last normalized in the mid-1960s, 44,000 Spaniards immigrated to the United States in that decade alone. In the 1970s, with prosperity emerging in Spain, the numbers declined to about 3,000 per year. Europe enjoyed an economic boom in the 1980s, and the total number of Spanish immigrants for the ten years dropped to only 15,000. The 1990 U.S. census recorded 76,000 foreign-born Spaniards in the country, representing only four-tenths of a percent of the total populace. In contrast, the largest Hispanic group—Mexicans born outside the United States—numbered over two million, approximately 21 percent.


Five areas of the United States have had significant concentrations of Spaniards: New York City, Florida, California, the Mountain West, and the industrial areas of the Midwest. For nineteenth-century immigrants, New York City was the most common destination in the United States. Until 1890 most Spaniards in this country lived either in the city itself, with a heavy concentration in Brooklyn, or in communities in New Jersey and Connecticut. By the 1930s, however, these neighborhoods had largely disintegrated, with the second generation moving to the suburbs and assimilating into the mainstream of American life.

At the end of the nineteenth century, Florida attracted the second largest group of Spaniards in the country through its ties to the Cuban cigar industry. Most of the owners of factories were originally from Asturias, and in the second half of the century they immigrated in substantial numbers, first to Cuba, then later to Key West, and eventually Tampa, taking thousands of workers with them. Several thousands of their descendants still live in the vicinity.

California is also home to descendants of southern Spanish pineapple and sugar cane workers who had moved to Hawaii at the beginning of the twentieth century. The great majority of those

The steel and metalworking centers of the Midwest also attracted northern Spaniards. In the censuses of 1920, 1930, and 1940, due to sizable contingents of Asturian coal miners, West Virginia was among the top seven states in number of Spanish immigrants. Rubber production and other kinds of heavy industry accounted for large groups of Spaniards in Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. With the decline of this sector of the American economy in the second half of the twentieth century such centers of industry have largely lost their drawing power, accelerating the dispersal and assimilation of these Spanish communities.

The 1918 Influenza Epidemic and the Bureaus of Immigration and Naturalization

In 1918, while World War I (WWI) raged overseas, Americans on the home front fought their own battle against an uncontrollable strain of influenza. The Spanish influenza epidemic spread quickly in the United States (U.S.) and abroad as it devastated civilian populations and military combatants. Soldiers transmitted the virus in their close living quarters and circulated it around the world as they travelled from base to base. Approximately 45,000 American service members died of influenza during WWI, nearly half of all American casualties. Eventually, the Spanish flu claimed over 650,000 lives in the U.S., just a fraction of its 20 to 50 million global victims.

The epidemic likely began in March 1918, when several cases of the virus were reported in Kansas and Georgia. After a brief hiatus, the deadly illness returned, spreading quickly as Americans struggled to detect its presence and institute effective defense measures. As the death toll in America continued to rise, panic spread across the country. The federal government worked to protect Americans and find a cure while also shielding its own employees from the disease. Under the Department of Labor, the Bureaus of Immigration and Naturalization (precursors to USCIS) implemented several health and safety measures. Despite cautionary actions, the Bureaus struggled to keep their employees safe during the influenza outbreak.

Unlike the standard strain of influenza, the 1918 outbreak of Spanish influenza disproportionately affected individuals between the ages of twenty and forty. While normally the healthiest part of the population, young Americans comprised approximately fifty percent of the victims. The unpredictability of the Spanish influenza created the impression among Americans that “the 1918… epidemic swept across the country like a hurricane, killing without discrimination.” Standard flu symptoms often quickly deteriorated into severe pneumonia. Sick individuals frequently bled from the mouth, nose, and eyes, lost oxygen, and consequently experienced skin discoloration. Victims could die within hours. Although government officials eventually determined that congested cities and crowded areas worsened the effects of the virus, many preventative measures assigned to the American public were ineffective.

Masks, such as these pictured on female clerks at Underwood & Underwood in New York, became part of the required workplace dress code following the 1918 Influenza. The Department of Labor hoped that covering employees’ mouths and noses would prevent the spread of infectious particles and successfully contain the disease. National Archives. .

The Bureaus of Immigration and Naturalization needed to retain enough healthy employees to continue functioning during the wartime pandemic. After identifying the risks that large groups and air contamination posed to the spread of influenza, the Bureaus of Immigration and Naturalization implemented precautionary measures within the workplace. Face masks became required workplace gear, because officials believed that covering the face with gauze would prevent the transfer of illness. Departmental leadership prioritized fresh air and ventilation, and agency buildings were emptied twice a day in order to “flush out the spaces with new fresh air.” With these actions, the Bureaus attempted to protect their employees and to create safe workplaces.

The Bureaus of Immigration and Naturalization also cared for employees who fell ill with the influenza. In a 1918 letter to labor union leader, Samuel Gompers, former Bureau of Naturalization Chief Clerk, Paul Myer, relayed that “all employees reported ill are visited by volunteers of the Department and a report is made stating whether or not they are properly cared for.” The Department of Labor created a welfare committee “in order that the [agency] may keep in closer touch with its personnel, with the hope that it might be of assistance in time of sickness and need.” One report of a volunteer’s daily calls showed that on Oct. 18, 1918, the volunteer filled prescriptions for an ill employee, Miss Dove, and delivered food to sick individuals and families, including Miss Dove’s family.

The Central Valley Immigrant Integration Collaborative (CVIIC) proudly sponsored the webinar, “History of Mexican Immigration to the United States from 1882-2020”, presented by Dr. Rafael Alarcón from the Colegio de la Frontera Norte (Colef).

The webinar examines the origin and evolution of Mexican immigration. It covers the following periods:

1. From Chinese Exclusion to Mexican Inclusion (1882-1920)
2. Restriction to Immig & Deportation of Mexicans (1921-1942)
3. The Bracero Program (1942-1964)
4. The Era of Undocumented Migration (1965-1986)
5. The Immigration Reform & Control Act (1986-1993)
6. Restriction & Criminalization of Immigrants (1993 -2020)

Download PDF version of the presentation

Bibliography consulted by author:

Alanís Enciso, Fernando Saúl y Rafael Alarcón Acosta (Coordinadores), 2016, El ir y venir de los Norteños. La historia de la migración mexicana a Estados Unidos (S. XIX- XXI). México: El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, El Colegio de San Luis A.C. y El Colegio de Michoacán.

Alarcón, Rafael. 2011, “U.S. Immigration Policy and the Mobility of Mexicans (1882-2005)” Migraciones Internacionales 20, Vol. 6, Num. 1. Enero – Junio (pp. 185-218).

Alarcón, Rafael. 2007, “Restricciones a la inmigración en Estados Unidos y movimiento agrario en Chavinda, Michoacán (1920-1942)” Relaciones. Estudios de Historia y Sociedad Vol. XXVIII, Num. 110 (pp. 155-187).

Alarcón Rafael. 2003, “La formación de una diáspora: migrantes de Chavinda en California” en Gustavo López Castro, (Ed.) Diáspora michoacana. El Colegio de Michoacán y Gobierno del Estado de Michoacán.

Alarcón Rafael. 1995, Immigrants or Transnational Workers ?: The Settlement Process among Mexicans in Rural California. Report for the California Institute for Rural Studies. Davis, California.

Alarcón Rafael. 1992, “Norteñización. Self-Perpetuating Migration from a Mexican Town.” Jorge Bustamante, Clark Reynolds y Raul Hinojosa, (Eds.) U.S. – Mexico Relations. Labor Market Interdependence. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Alarcón Rafael. 1989, “Los primeros ‘norteños’ de Chavinda” Zendejas Sergio, (Ed.) Estudios Michoacanos # 3. Zamora: El Colegio de Michoacán.

Massey Douglas, Rafael Alarcón, Jorge Durand y Humberto González. 1987, Return to Aztlan. The Social Process of International Migration from Western Mexico. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Spain’s Immigration Crisis

Mass immigration is something new for Spain. Throughout most of its history, Spain, like Ireland, was a nation of emigrants, not immigrants, and during the 20th century, more than six million Spaniards left their homeland. Until the 1950s, most sought new lives in Central and South America. During the latter half of the century Spaniards preferred to emigrate to northern Europe.

The migration flow reversed in the 1970s, and immigrants started coming in earnest after Spain entered the European Union (EU) in 1986. As the economy grew, so did the flow — both legal and illegal — from a trickle in the early 1990s to a flood by the end of the decade. Since 2000, the immigrant population has quadrupled to 3.7 million, and is now 8.4 percent of the population of 40 million. The total number of foreign-born residents increases by an average of ten percent every year, and the number of non-white immigrants increased by an average of over 200 percent annually from 1992 to 2000.

Although some immigrants come from within the EU and from Eastern Europe, most — and nearly all illegals — come from North Africa and Latin America. According to some experts, if the present rate of non-European immigration continues, Spaniards will become a minority in their homeland by the end of this century.

As in many countries, the initial response to Third World immigration has been foolishly generous now Spaniards show signs of waking up to what is really at stake.

Like most countries that have historically been sources of emigration, Spain practiced jus sanguinis (right of blood) citizenship, meaning only those born in Spain to Spanish citizens were citizens. In 1990 and 1995, Spain amended its Civil Code to accommodate immigrants from former colonies, and now practices jus sanguinis and jus solis (right of soil — those born in the territory are citizens). Spain now grants jus sanguinis citizenship to anyone born in Spain to at least one Spanish parent or born abroad to at least one Spanish-born parent, regardless of present nationality. The new jus solis provisions confer citizenship on children born in Spain to parents who are stateless or whose nationalities are not known. Children of foreigners born in Spain are citizens so long as one parent was born in Spain. Although there are exceptions, Spanish-born children of illegal aliens are counted as citizens, and it is considered rude to inquire too closely about the status of foreign-looking young people.

As the former colonizer, Spain has long-standing ties to Latin America. Argentines and Chileans are mostly of Spanish origin, and Spanish blood in varying quantities runs through the veins of people across the continent. Many of today’s Latin Americans had parents, grandparents or great-grandparents who were Spanish — 3.5 million Spaniards emigrated to Latin America between 1850 and 1950 — and Spain has dual citizenship agreements with Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Argentina, and Honduras.

Under the jus sanguinis principle, Latin Americans who have at least one Spanish parent can qualify immediately for Spanish citizenship. Those with a Spanish grandparent can apply for citizenship after one year of legal residency. People from any former colony — even if they have no blood ties to Spain — can apply for citizenship after two years of legal residency. The same rule applies to Portuguese, Filipinos, and Sephardic Jews descended from the Jews expelled in 1492. Applications for citizenship can be refused on a number of grounds, most commonly because of a criminal record. People coming to work in Spain must have a work permit, but most Latins, particularly the non-whites, ignore the law.

Although Spain was relatively accommodating to Latin American immigrants, until recently most wanted to get into the US. That began to change in the early 1990s, when Latin America suffered a sharp economic downturn and the US was tightening immigration enforcement. Ecuadorians were particularly hard hit. So many were trying to get out of their country that the US embassy in Quito stopped issuing tourist visas, afraid that anyone who made it to the United States would stay. Many Ecuadorians thought it would be easier to get into the US from a European country, and chose Spain because they spoke the language and because Spain did not require a tourist visa. Spain was also in an economic boom and needed low-wage labor.

“Back in those years, the flights to Spain from Ecuador were coming in full,” says Vladimir Paspuel, president of the Ruminahi Hispanic American Association, an organization of Ecuadorian expatriates. (Ruminahi was an Ecuadorian chieftain notorious for killing Spaniards. It is an odd name for a group established in Spain — a little like an association of Germans living in Israel calling itself The Hitler Club.) “They would ask only that you show a couple thousand dollars at the airport.”

Soon planes from Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and Argentina were also full. At first the immigrants were from the white, professional classes who were able to get work permits, but as word spread that low-skill jobs were plentiful and enforcement was lax, the mestizo working poor soon followed. By the late 1990s they were coming en masse, from all over Latin America.

Many Spanish businessmen saw illegal Latin Americans as a source of cheap, compliant labor, especially in agriculture and construction. The urban middle class, eager for the trappings of status, hired them as maids, nannies, and gardeners. Today, Ecuadorians may actually be the largest immigrant group in Spain, outnumbering even Moroccans, illegals included. Their numbers officially rose from 2,000 in 1995 to 375,000 in 2003, but since many are illegal, the actual number could be much higher. In addition, there are at least 250,000 Colombians and tens of thousands of other Latin Americans living in Spain.

The government was aware of the growing illegal population but took no action, believing immigrants were doing work “Spaniards will not do.” Instead, at the urging of the Socialists and the business community, it offered them periodic amnesties (seven since 1985). In the face of this official indifference to their presence, illegals began bringing in their extended families. There has been so much chain migration that for each Ecuadorian who works there may be as many as three who live off the state, thanks to Spain’s generous welfare.

In Spain, “undocumented migrants,” as they are euphemistically called, can rent apartments, and the elderly can live in public housing. Trade unions welcome them as members. Spain provides free universal medical care to all, and in a law passed in 2001, extended coverage to pregnant illegals and their minor children, and all other “undocumented migrants” who register at the local town hall. There are even special medical centers for illegals who do not register.

Latin Americans now overwhelm the public health facilities in Madrid and Barcelona, seeking even the most expensive treatments. They are mostly Amerindians, who may have little or no European blood. Many have never seen a doctor before, and their susceptibility to disease is, in the judgment of many Spanish doctors, the highest for any group in the country. The Madrid regional government reports that Latin Americans, on average, absorb 45 percent more in medical costs than Spaniards. They crowd the hospital waiting rooms in Madrid, along with a smattering of old, white Spaniards. It is a chilling glimpse at the future of Spain.

It is the same at many public schools in Spanish cities. All school-age children must attend school, and administrators are not allowed to ask about immigration status. Thus, in schools in Madrid’s working class neighborhoods, one has to look hard to find a European child, and even harder to find a native Spanish child. Amerindians are the majority in most of these schools, especially in the lower grades.

Mass immigration from Latin America has also brought crime. Madrid has gone from being one of the safest European cities to one of the most dangerous. Before the massive influx of immigrants, the most serious problem Spanish police faced was Basque separatist terrorism. They were unprepared for the American-style urban street gangs that arrived with the Latin Americans.

Spain had produced its own brand of urban thug before, but these were relatively harmless juvenile delinquents like skinheads, squatters and “anarchist” followers of Techno music. The Latin American gangs are violent crime organizations, some with names Americans will recognize: Latin Kings, Netas and Rancutas. Gangs got their start in urban Spanish schools, with racial confrontations between Latin Americans and Spaniards. In one instance in Barcelona, five members of the Latin Kings stabbed a 17-year-old Spaniard to death in a case of mistaken identity. Police estimate there are as many as 400 hard-core Latin King gang members in Barcelona, where hardly a weekend passes without a gang-related murder. There are gang murders now in other major Spanish cities, and almost all gang members are Latin American.

In Madrid, for example, gang leaders are Ecuadorian. The Latin Kings are at war with another Latin American street gang, the Netas, and they square off against each other in city parks. On weekends they turn the parks into urban ghettoes and harass native Spaniards. Gang members hate whites they prey on Spanish students in the schools, stealing their money, cell phones and even their clothes. In several schools, Spanish girls have had their faces cut by gang members while trying to defend themselves from rape. The police can do little in the face of the gangs, because most members are minors and foreign, and Spanish laws are among the most lenient in Europe. Many native Spaniards now send their children to private schools, which leaves the public schools even more firmly in the hands of gangs.

Latin American immigration has also meant an increase in drug trafficking, with Colombians heavily involved, as in the United States. The corruption inherent in the drug trade is beginning to corrupt the state, as several native-born judges and policemen have been arrested for taking bribes and otherwise aiding drug pushers.

Foreigners account for an astonishing 80 percent of arrests, and the prison population is overwhelmingly immigrant. The majority, however, are not Latinos but Muslims.

As unpleasant as the mixed-race Latin Americans are, they at least speak the language and are somewhat culturally if not racially compatible. In some ways, they are the children of Spain. Muslims, who come mainly from Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, are the children of Spain’s conquerors, the Moors (see article on p. 6).

This point was reinforced on March 11, 2004, when a series of bombs exploded on commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 and injuring 1,460, in the worst terrorist attack in modern Spanish history. The conservative government of then-prime minister José Maria Aznar tried to pin the bombings on the Basque ETA, but most Spaniards were convinced the attacks were retaliation for supporting the war in Iraq. The bombings occurred on the eve of Spanish national elections, which Mr. Aznar’s Popular Party was expected to win. Instead, the voters elected his Socialist opponent, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who promised to withdraw from Iraq immediately.

Spanish police have arrested several Muslims in connection with the Madrid bombings, mostly Moroccans. Although no links to Al-Qaeda have been officially established, Osama bin Laden himself has said the attack was part of the “liberation” and re-occupation of al-Andalus, the Arabic name for Spain. Regardless of who was responsible, the attack could not have happened but for Spain’s large Muslim community, into which the terrorists blended easily.

Muslim immigrants are recent arrivals, just like the Latin Americans. For obvious historical reasons, Spain has not been a welcoming place for Muslims, although in 1967 the government passed a religious freedom law that provided recognition to Islam. The big change came during the economic boom in the 1990s when Muslims, mainly Moroccans, began entering illegally to work. It is only a nine-mile boat ride across the Straits of Gibraltar, and hundreds of thousands have risked the deadly currents for a chance to live in Europe. Many have died in the process, and sad stories lamenting the plight of these “unfortunates” are a staple of the leftist media.

The Spanish government has been schizophrenic about illegal Muslim immigrants, at times cracking down, but usually accommodating them with amnesties and social benefits. As a result, the population has steadily increased, and currently numbers around 600,000. Most are Moroccans, who have seen their numbers rise from just 70,000 in 1995 to approximately 350,000. There could well be several hundred thousand more living in Spain illegally. There is some question as to whether there are more Moroccans than Ecuadorians. Some authorities say yes, others say no. Most Spaniards believe there are far too many of both.

Muslim immigrants, like their Latin American counterparts, have also contributed to the increase in the Spanish crime rate, especially crimes against women. Muslims and Latin American immigrants commit 40 percent of domestic violence crimes. Just what this means in terms of per capita offense rates is impossible to know, because the official population figures (Muslims are 1.75 percent of the population, Latin Americans are 1.94 percent) do not account for illegals. Whatever the real population figures, immigrants are vastly overrepresented in virtually all crimes.

For Latin Americans, disdain for women is part of “machismo,” and for Muslims, it is sanctioned by religion. In 1997, a Spanish imam published a book called Women in Islam, in which he argued Muslim men could beat their wives as follows: “The beatings must be administered to specific parts of the body, such as the feet and hands, using a stick that is not too long, so as not to leave scars and bruises.”

The Aznar government charged the cleric with inciting hatred against women, but the Socialists let him go. As in other Western countries, Muslims in Spain have a tendency to rape white women. Recently in the southwestern town of Jumilla, native Spaniards expressed their outrage at the authorities’ seeming unwillingness to prevent such rapes. They stormed the city hall and pelted it with eggs and tomatoes, angry that government at all levels had failed to protect them from immigrant crime. They were outraged that they had welcomed immigrants and supported them with tax money only to be paid back with, as they put it, “crime, violence and fear.” Muslims now make up a staggering 70 percent of the inmates in Spanish prisons. In 1990 there were just 1,000 Muslim inmates.

Muslims do not get along well with Spain’s other major immigrant group. In Catalonia, which has large numbers of both Muslims and Latin Americans, violence between the two groups is common, a pattern found in many cities where both groups have settled. Violence is likely to increase, along with the number of immigrants.

Government Appeasement

Despite polls showing that a third of Spaniards want immigration sharply reduced or completely eliminated and that most consider immigration the second-most serious problem facing Spain — right behind terrorism — governments of both the right and the left have favored increasing immigration, most recently through the amnesty announced late last year and completed in May.

Spain first amnestied illegals when it passed its first-ever immigration law in 1985 in preparation for joining the EU. There were only a few illegals at that time, mostly temporary guest workers who had overstayed their visas from the 1960s and 70s. The law provided for sanctions against employers of illegal aliens, but as in the United States, they were rarely enforced. As illegal immigration increased during the 1990s, there were more amnesties: in 1991, 1994 (which also provided for family reunification), 1996, 2000, 2001, with the most recent just this year.

The current amnesty, which closed on May 8, was the largest to date, giving some 700,000 illegal immigrants — mostly Muslims — legal residency. Many illegals came to Spain from other EU countries to participate in the amnesty, greatly increasing the number. The illegals were supposed to prove they had been living and working in Spain for at least six months, but many managed to get forged records. Once families are included, this latest amnesty is expected to make more than a million people legal Spanish residents.

The current Socialist government rationalizes the amnesty by saying that it “just makes sense” to provide legal status to people who have been living and working in Spain for years. “These people were working in our shadow economy,” says Secretary of State for Immigration Marta Rodriguez-Tarducy. “They were using our social services but not paying any taxes, so we gave them the chance over a limited period to get their papers in order without being penalized.”

The government hopes the amnesty will provide billions in revenue, oblivious as always to the demographic and cultural impact of Third Worlders. The conservative Popular Party, now in opposition, objected to the amnesty, claiming it would just encourage more illegals and cause social tension, but it should talk most of the earlier amnesties happened on its watch. Many of Spain’s EU partners opposed the amnesty, fearing that once the illegals got Spanish papers, they would pour into their countries. Government officials defended the amnesty as the only humane way to deal with the immigration crisis and a looming pension deficit. The labor minister claims this will be the last amnesty ever, and that the government will start cracking down hard on people who hire illegals — Spaniards have heard this many times since 1985.

Amnesty is not the only sop to Spain’s Muslim immigrants. The new Socialist government of José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, elected in the wake of the Madrid bombings, has been especially accommodating. Mr. Zapatero shelved plans for a French-style ban on the hijab in public schools, despite polls showing 78 percent of the public supported it. He also authorized instruction in Islamic subjects in Spanish public schools that have a large number of Muslim students.

Perhaps his most controversial move has been to provide state funding to mosques. The Zapatero administration claims government funding will eliminate the influence of fundamentalist Muslims who are currently providing financing, but the move should be seen in the context of the Socialists’ Marxist-inspired hostility towards Spanish Catholicism. (Spain, along with Ireland and Poland, is one of the traditional Catholic bastions of Europe 94 percent of Spaniards are at least nominally Catholic.) Mr. Zapatero says he wants to treat all religions equally in Spain, yet while he plans to fund mosques, he has cut funding to Catholic schools and religious centers. Teaching Islam, he says without any apparent irony, is part of his government’s policy of “secularism.”

Mosques are popping up all over Spain, even without government assistance. In 1993, the Muslim prayer-call was heard for the first time in 500 years in Granada, with the opening of the Grand Mosque. Another Grand Mosque is planned for Seville. Recently, the wife of a former high-ranking government official in Catalonia, home to 100,000 Muslims, set off protests from Muslims when she said she feared one day all the churches would be turned into mosques.

The immigration crisis is exacerbated by demographic trends. Spain has one of the lowest native fertility rates in the Western world: just 1.15 lifetime births per woman. Experts say the country will lose a quarter of its native population by mid-century. The government justifies immigration for this reason, choosing to believe non-white immigrants will pay high taxes to support a declining population of elderly white people they despise. The low birthrate, coupled with the high rate of immigration and immigrant fertility have lead some experts to conclude native Spaniards could become a minority in Spain within 50 years or so, something inconceivable just a decade and a half ago.

As grim as the situation sounds, Spaniards are not about to surrender the country their ancestors defended for centuries against Muslim rule. Many are beginning to understand that non-white immigrants who won’t assimilate are a potentially mortal threat to the Spanish identity. The incident in Jumilla where the townspeople stormed the city hall is an example of Spaniards fighting back. This spring, when Dominicans in Madrid killed a young Spaniard only because he was white and was in “their” territory, whites protested for two days, and even set fire to shops owned by Latin Americans. In Seville, there was a large demonstration to protest the Grand Mosque. In Madrid, there have been several big demonstrations by native Spaniards against the Ecuadorian gangs who have turned city parks into no-go zones for whites.

The protests in Madrid may also have been fueled by a recent letter to the editor of a local newspaper in which an Ecuadorian wrote that once his kind were in the majority they would pull down all the statues of Cortes and Pizarro, the conquerors of America, in retaliation for the “genocide” of his ancestors. The demonstrators might also have recalled the aftermath of a 2003 soccer match between the Spanish and Ecuadorian national teams in Madrid. Ecuador’s supporters shouted angry anti-Spanish slogans and rioted after their team lost, causing a great deal of damage in the area around the stadium.

Perhaps most encouraging of all, a small neo-Frankist nationalist party, Plataforma per Catalunya, recently won municipal seats in left-leaning Catalonia. Reawakened Spaniards will, as other Europeans have begun to do, punish the elites who have betrayed them and vote them out. The spirit of Spanish nationalism may have been slumbering, but there are signs it is beginning to stir.

In Spanish Harlem

The first great generation of Puerto Rican migrants established communities in cities throughout the country, including Chicago, Philadelphia, and Newark, as well as in mid-Atlantic farm villages and the mill towns of New England. However, since the 1930s, the capital of Puerto Rican culture in the mainland U.S. has been New York City. Despite its great distance from the Caribbean, New York had long been the landing point of seagoing Puerto Ricans, and the airborne newcomers followed suit. The new migrants settled in great numbers in Northeast Manhattan, in a neighborhood that soon became known as Spanish Harlem. Although many had been farm workers in Puerto Rico, they know found themselves working in a wide variety of jobs, staffing the hospitals, the hotels, the garment factories, and the police departments of their new hometown, and they soon became a significant force in the city's political and cultural life.

The migration to the 50 states slowed in the 1960s and 70s, as an urban recession led to fewer jobs in U.S. cities, and many of the first generation returned to Puerto Rico. At the same time, many migrants struggled with poverty, unemployment, and racial discrimination in their new home. Darker-skinned Puerto Ricans often found themselves excluded from jobs, education, and housing, and were frequently attacked by non-Puerto Rican street gangs. Meanwhile, for most Puerto Ricans the language barrier sometimes made it difficult to find well-paying work or to navigate government agencies or other English-speaking institutions.

As a second generation was born into the mainland Puerto Rican community, new political movements were born as well. Puerto Ricans organized to campaign for greater civil rights, for equal access to education and employment, and for changes in the status of Puerto Rico. In a 1951 referendum, the Puerto Rican population had voted overwhelmingly to become a U.S. commonwealth, rather than remain a colony. Many groups, however, continued to call for full independence, and later in the decade militant nationalists fired on the U.S. House of Representatives and attempted to assassinate President Harry Truman. Political organizations also sprang up to agitate for social reform and greater economic aid to the island, which continued to struggle economically. At the same time, cultural organizations such as the Nuyorican Poets urged Puerto Ricans on the mainland to become more aware of their heritage, and produced poems and songs that examined many of the harshest aspects of the migrant experience.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the Puerto Rican community has established solid roots in the U.S. mainland. Although the first generation of migrants faced great obstacles, their labors helped build institutions that now benefit their successors, including churches, community centers, schools, businesses, and political organizations. Today, Puerto Ricans serve New York in the city, state, and federal governments in 1992, New Yorker Nydia Velázquez became the first woman of Puerto Rican descent to be elected to the U.S. Congress. The Puerto Rican Day parade has become one of the largest parades for any national or ethnic group in the city. Nationally, performers such as Rita Moreno, Raul Julia, and Tito Puente have become familiar faces to millions of Americans, and writers such as Edwin Torres, Nicolasa Mohr, and Judith Ortiz Cofer have made their mark on the nation's literary scene. The Hall of Fame baseball player Robert Clemente, who passed away in 1972, is still revered throughout North America, as much for his philanthropy as for his skill in the outfield.

Today, almost as many people of Puerto Rican descent can be found in the 50 states as on the island itself. Meanwhile, the nature of the community continues to change. More professionals and high-tech workers are arriving on the mainland than ever before, and the fastest-growing Puerto Rican enclave is not in New York City, but in Orlando, Florida. It seems clear that, after more than a century as part of the United States, the Puerto Rican community will continue as a growing and dynamic part of American life for decades to come.

Immigration and National Identity in Latin America, 1870–1930

Although on a lesser scale than the United States, southern South America became a major receiving region during the period of mass transatlantic migration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Even as the white elites of most Latin American countries favored European immigration in the late 19th century, since in their eyes it would “civilize” their countries, it was the temperate areas closely tied into the Atlantic economy as exporters of primary products that received the bulk of European laborers. Previously scarcely populated lands like Argentina, Uruguay, and southern Brazil thus witnessed massive population growth and in some ways turned into societies resembling those of other immigration countries, such as the United States and Canada. This article concentrates on lands where the overwhelming majority of migrants headed, although it also briefly deals with Latin American nations that received significantly fewer newcomers, such as Mexico.

This mass migration lastingly modified identity narratives within Latin America. First, as the majority of Europeans headed to sparsely populated former colonial peripheries that promised economic betterment, migration shifted prevalent notions about the region’s racial composition. The former colonial heartlands of Mexico, Peru, and northeastern Brazil were increasingly regarded as nonwhite, poor, and “backward,” whereas coastal Argentina, São Paulo, and Costa Rica were associated with whiteness, wealth, and “progress.” Second, mass migration was capable of both solidifying and challenging notions of national identity. Rather than crossing over well-established and undisputed boundaries of national identities and territories, migration thus contributed decisively to making them.



  • 1889–1910
  • 1910–1945
  • Cultural History
  • International History
  • Social History

The Reasons for Mass Migration

The widespread notion of Latin America as a world region shaped by a long-term history of mestizaje (“racial mixing”), which gained currency in the early 20th century, also implies that it has been a region of immigration. Indeed, given the well-known arrival of Spanish conquistadors and of African slaves during colonial times, Latin America had always been a region of significant “immigration,” long before most of its countries gained independence from the Iberian motherlands in the early 19th century. Yet, in terms of numbers, it was the period ranging from 1870 to 1930 during which immigration reached truly massive proportions. According to José Moya’s calculation, in the course of the year 1910 alone, more Spaniards (131,000) arrived at the port of Buenos Aires than did during more than three centuries of colonial rule all over the Americas. 1 This inflow of people in the six decades after 1870 was thus quantitatively unprecedented, embedded in a wider set of global movements of peoples. 2 As opposed to the migrations of other world regions, the vast majority, although not all, of those who crossed the Atlantic toward the Americas hailed from Europe.

In the Americas, far more migrants headed to the United States than to Latin America, as Table 1 shows. Some historians have taken this difference as evidence of the greater attractiveness of North America over Latin America, alleging that the latter region remained mired in political instability, poverty, and “xenophobia” during the 19th century as a legacy of Catholicism and Iberian colonialism. 3 If one measures the numbers of arrivals against the pre-existing population of the respective receiving countries—which is what one would have to do in order to say something about relative attractiveness—it turns out that in Argentina and Uruguay the ratio of newcomers to residents surpassed that of the United States and Canada during much of the second half of the 19th century. Uruguay’s population grew sevenfold in the second half of the 19th century, and Argentina’s quadrupled, owing in good part to immigration. 4 The composition of the flow of migrants to Latin America, meanwhile, was less diverse than the one to the United States. Italy, Spain, and Portugal—in that order—furnished the largest numbers by far, together providing well over two thirds of the entirety of immigrants to Latin America between 1870 and 1930 . 5

Table 1 European Immigrants to American Countries, ca. 1820–1932

Source: Moya, Cousins and Strangers, 46.

Within Latin America, the preferred destinations of overseas migrants were unevenly distributed (Table 1). Only Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, and Uruguay drew significant numbers of overseas immigrants. Another one of Moya’s calculations brings the steep discrepancies into sharp relief: “Peru attracted in one hundred years [after independence] fewer European immigrants than did Argentina in one month and the United States in one week.” 6 The absolute figures given in Table 1, moreover, were not only heavily concentrated in the period from 1870 to 1930 , they would look even more skewed toward certain destinations if the various countries’ pre-existing populations were taken into account. The entire Argentine territory, for example, hosted only 1,877,490 inhabitants according to the census of 1869 , 7 but then drew 840,000 immigrants in the 1880s and another 1.76 million in the first decade of the 20th century. 8 This article deals with this uneven spread by focusing primarily on the countries within Latin America where the vast majority of migrants were headed.

This asymmetric distribution casts doubt on traditional explanations that have attributed these vast demographic movements to the racism of Latin American elites, which from the middle of the 19th century onward pledged to “whiten” their countries’ “racial stock” by encouraging European immigration. 9 Virtually all white Latin American elites nurtured such racial fantasies of “whitening” their allegedly “backward” populations. Mexican president Porfirio Díaz ( 1884–1911 ), for example, desperately tried to lure (ideally English) settlers to Mexico, whereas a few decades later the Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo yearned for Europeans to ward off what he perceived as the threat emanating from the neighboring republic, Haiti. Although Mexico drew a steady trickle of Chinese and Arab immigrants in the early 20th century and Trujillo managed to persuade 750 Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany to come to the Dominican Republic in 1937 , none of this came remotely close to fulfilling the grand dreams of demographic engineering formulated by countless statesmen in favor of large-scale European settlement for the imagined purpose of “civilizational improvement.” 10 In 1935 , the Dominican Republic had 52,000 Haitian-born residents, 9,000 British West Indians, yet only 3,000 Europeans. 11 In short, while the elites’ wish for “whiter” populations varied little across Latin America, its realization differed massively between countries. The racism of Latin American elites is a poor explanation for transatlantic migrations.

Likewise, the capacity of states either to attract or to curb immigration should not be overestimated. European states and politics in the mid-19th century, to be sure, mattered insofar as the rise of liberalism removed legal obstacles to emigration. Apart from the Dominican settlement scheme for Jews, there were also a few other state-sponsored programs contributing to encouraging immigration—most notably the one adopted by the state of São Paulo in the 1890s, which managed to draw significant numbers of Venetian families to work on the state’s coffee fazendas in replacement of slave labor. 12 But when Italy forbade Brazilian recruitment through subsidized fares and contracts in 1902 , citing the exploitative conditions on the fazendas, a largely self-sustained stream of other migrants, many of them still Italians, replaced the state-sponsored settlers. The relative success of the São Paulo scheme in fact stemmed partly from the simultaneous economic crisis in the Rio de la Plata, which diverted to Brazil migrants who previously had headed further south. By contrast, Uruguay, which until the 1870s had the highest ratio of immigrants to resident population in Latin America, had hardly any official policy of attracting immigrants, which at any rate would have been undermined by the country’s endemic political instability and a weak state. When Uruguay did adopt a law trying to encourage immigration in 1890 , the number of arrivals in fact dropped due to the economic crisis. 13 In order to kindle migration, states thus had to remove barriers—as most did. But beyond this, their power to really channel, and particularly to attract, large-scale immigration was limited.

For the same reason, from a social-history perspective it makes little sense to categorize migration to Latin America according to the receiving nation-states. Migrants constantly crossed boundaries within Latin America, with the Rio de la Plata countries especially integrated. An Italian diplomat in the 1890s doubted that Uruguay was “anything more than a bridge between the ocean and Argentina.” 14 In 1907 / 08 , 18,600 Argentine citizens and 27,800 Brazilians lived in Uruguay, while roughly 100,000 Uruguayans (almost a tenth of the country’s population) lived in Argentina—though most of these people’s parents had been born in Europe. 15 Italian sources did not differentiate between the River Plate countries until after the unification of Italy. German emigration records summarily referenced Südamerika in a single rubric. 16 Although scholars are accustomed to using national statistics and to framing their research objects nationally, rural Uruguay and southern Brazil had much more in common—economically, culturally, socially—than Rio Grande do Sul and Rio de Janeiro. Likewise, the similarities between the cities of Buenos Aires and Montevideo were greater than those between the Argentine provinces of Buenos Aires and Catamarca.

Although racist precepts percolated into legislation, law enforcement remained weak and labor needs strong. Uruguay’s 1890 law, for example, stipulated that “Africans, Asians, and Gypsies” be barred entry into the country, but there were few migrants to test the seriousness of this provision. Following the U.S. Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 , many Latin American states followed suit in the hysteria over the “yellow peril” and outlawed Chinese migration, but border controls were as yet all but nonexistent, while short-term labor demands at any rate trumped racial fears. 17 In the Spanish-speaking Caribbean islands and rimlands, where racial anxieties were no less pronounced than in South America, black West Indians provided an indispensable workforce for U.S. companies and the state expansion of infrastructure in the early decades of the 20th century. 18 In the course of the Amazonian rubber boom, a multinational workforce including laborers from various Asian and British-Caribbean countries flocked to the Brazilian interior for infrastructure projects. 19 Non-Europeans stepped in for Europeans where the latter were not available—racist rhetoric about “whitening” notwithstanding.

To explain the gist of mass migration to Latin America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, one has to look for “mightier laws than those produced in national legislatures.” 20 The usual candidates for explanation remain the most compelling. As mortality fell more quickly than birth rates, population growth created economic pressures in large parts of Europe. Industrialization and urbanization had produced an additional population that needed to be fed, something partly provided for by the Americas, which in turn required laborers. As trade between Europe and the Americas intensified, infrastructures improved (partly fueled by British capital), communications redoubled, shipping times dropped, and costs were cut, migration became an ever more viable option for increasing numbers of people. Networks of information and kinship spread so as to connect specific places of origin with particular destinations. Wage differentials or the opportunity to buy land often undergirded these migration systems. 21 Finally, with steamships allowing, the option of returning home—earnings in hand—lowered the psychological barrier to emigration. In fact, the majority of emigrants who went to Latin America between 1870 and 1930 probably did not leave with the intention to stay abroad. Contrary to conventional public perceptions of migration as definite movement from one place to another, about half of the European migrants to Latin America eventually returned home.

Accommodation, Exclusion, and National Identity

From a bird’s-eye perspective, scholars have sometimes contrasted the increasingly nativist United States of the late 19th and early 20th centuries to Latin American receiving societies that were allegedly more welcoming. Eduardo Míguez has argued that “it is likely that the integration of immigrants into the local society was faster and more successful in many of the migrant flows that arrived in Spanish and Portuguese America than in their North American counterparts.” 22 Comparisons of the social mobility and various yardsticks of “assimilation”—such as residential segregation and marriage patterns—of Italians in the Rio de la Plata and the United States have confirmed this impression. 23 The relatively short cultural and religious distance that separated Italy from Latin America may account for a part of the divergence between North and South America, but labor market development and, above all, the timing of the migratory process played a more crucial role. While Italians in the United States were latecomers who had to squeeze into a fully fledged industrial society, in the River Plate they had long influenced trade, bought land, and contributed to nation-building more broadly. Therefore, Spaniards, who were culturally even closer to Argentines and Uruguayans, but on average arrived later than Italians, typically in-married more often, clustered more residentially, and owned less property than Italians. 24

Though perhaps true for the comparative experience of southern Europeans, it is mistaken to contrast a uniformly xenophobic United States to a steadfast xenophilic Latin America. For the treatment meted out to immigrants in Latin America, elites’ “whitening” ideologies and nationalism did matter very much. Race—or more broadly, origin—crucially shaped migrants’ experience, as elite templates for idealized national identities had been tailored for some migrants and not others. Nonwhites on the whole were treated far worse. Afro-Caribbeans, in particular, encountered vicious racist hostility, punctuated with violence on occasion, in most of the countries they went to. 25 Contrary to Europeans, in the early 1930s the overwhelming majority of West Indian migrant laborers either voluntarily returned or were forcefully expelled from the various host countries in which they had worked. 26 Anti-black sentiment reached its tragic apogee in the Dominican Republic in 1937 , when national troops and local officials engineered the killing of several thousand ethnic Haitians. 27 Sinophobic campaigns in turn had victimized the Chinese in 19th-century Cuba and in revolutionary Mexico. 28

European immigrants were not always well received either, although they rarely encountered the same degree of hostility as nonwhites. Popular xenophobia in revolutionary Mexico targeted not only Chinese traders but also the Spanish, pejoratively called gachupines, who suffered both harassment and expulsion. 29 On a broader scale, the same elites that earlier had advocated European immigration grew skeptical over its benefits once this immigration was actually forthcoming in large numbers. Thus, Argentina’s champion of “civilization” and immigration, the writer-statesman Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, railed against his country’s “Italianization” by the 1880s. 30 Just like in the United States, relative latecomers perceived to be culturally more different bore the brunt of discrimination. Thus, southern Italians, who on average arrived later and settled more often in cities, felt less welcome than northern Italians, who had come earlier and headed to the countryside more often. As early as 1878 , the Italian consul in Montevideo claimed that “the epithet Neapolitan was a synonym for criminal and evildoer in the eyes of police.” 31

After the late 19th century, Argentine nationalism, increasingly centered on the exaltation of the rural pre-immigration archetype of the gaucho, developed in good measure in opposition to mass immigration. 32 As Catholicism gradually became an ingredient of right-wing nationalism, so did anti-Semitism, which erupted in serious ethnic violence during the so-called “tragic week” in 1919 . 33 States also grew more hostile to immigration over time. Against the background of anarchist political activities, the Argentine government of Julio A. Roca passed a residency law in 1902 allowing for the easier expulsion of foreigners. 34 In the context of World War I, political anxieties also entailed measures against Germans who had settled in large numbers in southern Brazil and were suspected of creating a “fifth column” for the German Empire. 35 By the 1930s, when the Depression fueled a global rise of xenophobia, many Latin American governments enacted laws to curb the entry of migrants. The authoritarian regime of Brazil led by Getúlio Vargas was a case in point, trying to “Brazilianize” immigrants already in the country, for example, by closing down foreign-language schools and outlawing “foreign” organizations, such as Zionist political associations. 36 Latin American nationalisms, in short, became more intolerant of immigration over time. In spite of the 19th-century rhetoric about “civilizing” and “whitening,” these nationalisms also targeted European immigrants.

Compared to U.S. nativist campaigns against southern and eastern Europeans, Latin American anti-immigrant nationalisms stemmed less from elitist prejudice against downtrodden aliens inasmuch as (European) immigrants in Latin America were not normally poorer than the native population. Later arrivals who stayed in cities typically suffered a clearer exclusion from rising national imaginaries, but they were not the most marginalized socio-economically. Contrary to the United States, in South America it tended to be a long-term socio-economic advantage to have settled in a city, since these were typically the more dynamic nodal points of outward-looking economies. Whereas in the United States ethnic discrimination coincided with socio-economic disadvantages, no such straightforward link existed in Latin America. Thus, the figure of the gaucho that opponents of mass immigration evoked in Argentina not only symbolized a rural idyll but also stood for the poor social outcast who had been dispossessed by the pitiless encroachment of capitalist modernity that European settlers had brought to the pampas. Mexican Hispano- and Sinophobia in the revolutionary years likewise was part and parcel of a popular nationalism that identified foreignness with unwarranted privilege, wealth, and power. 37 Latin American anti-immigrant nationalisms, in other words, could be as much a popular as an elite affair.

One reason for this had to do with the long-term colonial tradition of thoroughly Europeanized—i.e., somewhat “foreign”—elites in Latin America, which endured well after the independence wars of the early 19th century. British and Irish mercenaries played an important role in bringing about the independence of several South American republics and began occupying influential positions thereafter. 38 One of Argentina’s foremost independence heroes, Manuel Belgrano, was the son of a Ligurian trader, whose compatriots almost monopolized shipping in the Rio de la Plata throughout the 19th century and enjoyed excellent ties to the emerging national political elite, from which in fact they gradually became indistinguishable even before the mass arrival of poor Italian laborers in the last decades of the century. 39 These intimate links to Europe of large parts of Latin American elites partly account for the rise of “whitening” ideologies from 1850 onward and for the positive prejudice with which many early immigrants from Europe were met. In contrast to common understandings of nationalism in Europe and the United States today, this nation-building brand of Latin American nationalism was indeed xenophilic rather than xenophobic. Only after World War I were national identities in Latin America construed in contradistinction to immigrants and to Europe.

In the countries of mass immigration, the imaginary boundaries that new forms of nationalism drew often became internalized, as the later sociological literature on “internal colonialism” made clearer. 40 Since mass European immigration alongside economic integration into the Atlantic economy had profoundly transformed the demographic composition of the population and deepened socio-economic rifts between poor rural backlands and industrialized urban centers, new dividing lines emerged. São Paulo elites, for example, contrasted their state’s supposed “modernity” and “whiteness” with Brazil’s allegedly “backward” northeast. 41 Even in Argentina, where European immigration had been much more spatially comprehensive than in Brazil, a sort of bi-culturalism emerged. Although not necessarily tied to immigration in explicit terms from 1930 onwards, Argentine nationalists continue to this day to contrast an allegedly “authentic” gaucho and mestizo interior to the liberal-cosmopolitan city of Buenos Aires, which they depict as a bridgehead of Europeanness and of “imperialist” intrusion. Divisions between the national and the foreign, thus, were internalized inasmuch as the very capital was perceived as external to the nation. 42

While immigration to Latin America interacted in complicated ways with the local construction of national identities, it also did so in relation to the migrants’ societies of origin, which in many cases were not clearly defined nation-states either. Emigrants from Ottoman lands, who went to virtually all countries of the Americas, were a case in point. Summarily called “Turks” (turcos), they included Arab Christians and (fewer) Muslims from today’s Lebanon and Syria, Jews from across the Ottoman Empire, as well as Armenians, but hardly any people who today or in historical settings other than Latin America would be labeled Turks. It was only upon emigration that, depending on their place of origin and ethnic and religious factors, they gradually began to “acquire” other identities: Armenians unsurprisingly disentangled themselves from the term turco, as did many Jews, especially after the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948 , while Arab Christians and Muslims became “Syrian-Lebanese” in Argentina and Brazil, “Palestinians” in Honduras, and “Lebanese” in Mexico and Ecuador. 43

Turcos may have been especially illustrative of the shifting nature of national identities, but they were not isolated cases. In Brazil and Peru many “Japanese” came from Okinawa, which had been colonized by the Meiji Empire only in 1879 , to undergo a forced “Japanization” from 1890 onward. This process perhaps helped to fuel emigration but was itself undertaken by the authorities partly with an interest in how overseas Okinawans could help Japan’s wider geopolitical ambitions. 44 Many of Argentina’s “Germans,” especially in the province of Entre Ríos, in fact hailed from the lower Volga area of Russia, where they had settled since the late 18th century. 45 The “nationality” of the few thousand Cape Verdeans who went to Argentina between the 1920s and 1940s was hard to establish for immigration officials, too, even if their passports unmistakably identified them as Portuguese. 46 West Indians officially migrated to Central America as British subjects, as did the roughly 12,000 Irish who settled permanently in Argentina during the 19th century. Argentines eventually resorted to calling them “English” (ingleses). 47

The larger migratory groups also came from areas whose national identity was subject to various kinds of dispute. Before 1861 and 1871 , respectively, “Italians” and “Germans” did not arrive as such, but as Ligurians or Calabrians, Prussians or Swabians. The “French” who from 1850 onward went to Argentina and Uruguay came chiefly from the Basque Country. If marriage practices in Uruguay are anything to go by, they typically socialized with other Basques, from both sides of the Franco-Spanish border—which as a consequence mattered much less for social life in the Rio de la Plata than the difference between Spanish Basques and other Spaniards. 48 The “Spanish” who went to Argentina, Uruguay, and Cuba in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were in fact mainly Galicians (around 65 percent of the total), whose “Spanishness” was as questionable as the solution proposed by the receiving societies, which for reasons of simplicity accustomed themselves to call all Spaniards gallegos. Then again, some of these migrants officially never crossed any national boundary, for until 1898 Cuba was still a Spanish colony. 49

Finally, the high incidence of return migration among most groups that had gone to Latin America ensured that diasporic identity constructions fed back into homeland nationalisms. To an extent, it was in the Americas that many Ligurians or Calabrians really became “Italians.” This becoming national in the diaspora was frequently kindled through external events, such as World War I, but could also emerge from more mundane issues. The local context of origin—or campanilismo, to use the pejorative Italian term for emotional attachment to the local bell tower—mattered less as the very process of movement forced migrants to interact ever more with the representatives and legal intricacies of nation-states, be they consuls or immigration officials. Immigrant associationism, although often based on regional or village origin, reinforced this nationalization in the diaspora. The myriad of Basque or Galician associations in 19th-century Buenos Aires, for example, formed the bedrock for the emergence of a more unified “Spanish” associationist culture. 50 In other cases, for example, among immigrants from Syria and Lebanon, limited political freedoms at home made the diaspora the most propitious terrain for nationalist politics. 51 In summary, contrary to common perceptions of migration as crossing fixed nation-state boundaries, migration to Latin America and the global spread of nation-states were processes that were intimately interwoven.

Discussion of the Literature

Although the major population movements to Latin America between 1870 and 1930 are reasonably well known, they remain understudied when compared to the parallel experience of the United States. As a consequence of this and of the global power of Anglo-American academe, Latin American migratory histories have had a limited impact on the building of theory compared to those of the United States. Scholarship on migration to Latin America has traditionally been as nationally focused as the historiography on the United States. Recent years have seen major strides in attempts at overcoming this nation-centered approach to migration, in particular through the rise of comparative studies. 52 Much of this scholarship is comparative in the sense of edited volumes or special journal issues, which typically provide limited comparability between the cases studied therein. 53 Monographs that are in themselves explicitly comparative remain rare. 54 The study of several “groups” within one national setting, in turn, is even less common, especially in English. 55 Doubly transnational studies—that is, works that examine the links existing between migrants in different receiving countries—are all but nonnexistent, in spite of much anecdotal evidence that such connections were very strong. Numerically, at any rate, the vast majority of studies continue to concentrate on one “ethnic” or “national” group within one receiving nation-state, owing to a lack of funds for cross-national research in Latin American universities and the ongoing weight of methodological nationalism.

Naturally, the degree of scholarly interest in historical immigration differs among Latin American countries, depending less on real numbers than on the centrality that (European) immigration has had in the national imaginary. Hence, Argentine and foreign sociologists and historians have long had an interest in the country’s immigrant past, which has produced sophisticated and thorough social-history monographs. 56 In spite of the relatively limited number of migrants who went to Chile, there has been a thriving literature on them, too. Scholarship on migration to Brazil, in turn, has usually treated its subject matter as a regional, rather than national, affair. Hence, apart from Jeffrey Lesser’s works, which disproportionately deal with small non-European groups and the discourse about them, 57 historians have chiefly concentrated on individual groups either in São Paulo or in southern Brazil. There have been remarkably few studies on the Cuban case, even though the Caribbean island was the third most important recipient of European immigrants between 1870 and 1930 . Although there are several studies of Chinese-Cubans, there is hardly any reliable scholarship in English on the many Spaniards who came to the island. 58 The main reason for these continent-wide mismatches is the extent to which any given country has fashioned a Europeanized national identity for itself, or not.

The nation-focused approach more generally owes much to the long-term predominance of concerns over the extent to which any given migrant group “fits” into receiving nation-states. This was further reinforced by the sway of the Chicago School of Sociology, with its characteristic preoccupation about the degree and speed with which immigrants “assimilated” into a host society implicitly understood as possessing a pre-existing and stable national identity. With some notable exceptions, 59 this brand of scholarship has had little interest in the shifting nature of the nationalisms of the receiving societies—a field generally ceded to specialists of “nationalism,” who tended to have other theoretical points of reference than the social history of migration. 60 It remains for future historians to integrate these two fields of inquiry more fully and grant due attention to how migration and nation-state formation have interacted with one another.

Primary Sources

The most relevant primary sources for such a vast field of inquiry will inevitably depend heavily on any individual researcher’s particular topical and methodological preferences. Public archives on average function less smoothly in Latin America than they do in Europe and the United States, although there are notable exceptions in Brazil, Chile, and Mexico. The archives of the foreign ministries of sending countries—such as Germany, Italy, or Spain—can therefore provide interesting general overviews for specific groups, as sending nations typically maintained an interest in the representation of “their” diasporas, often trying to harness them for geopolitical purposes. Consular reports ending up with the foreign-ministry files of European countries also allow interesting insights into the everyday lives of migrants on many occasions. National libraries in Madrid or Rome, as well as in other places, also often hold an impressive amount of monographic contemporaneous literature on immigrants and their reception in Latin America.

Archival options in Latin America itself vary widely, yet rarely have the paper trails of public ministries proven the most fruitful entry. Apart from published censuses, scholars have typically resorted as a first point of call to the documentation of immigrant associations: mutual aid societies, social clubs, ethnic medical insurances, trade unions, and the like. This method has sometimes yielded fascinating serial data on immigrant social life, but it has three drawbacks: the material is frequently almost impossible to trace, it is usually in a precarious and incomplete state, and it captures only “affiliated ethnics,” leaving out immigrants less active in official community life. Ecclesiastical (parish) records, census manuscript schedules, arrival records, and civil registry files are therefore often still preferable in order to collect meaningful series. The Centro de Estudios Migratorios Latinoamericanos in Buenos Aires and the Museu da Imigração do Estado de São Paulo are among the most useful institutions to provide initial guidance. In a second step, documentation in municipal archives will sometimes prove more rewarding than national ones.

Spain Immigration Statistics 1960-2021

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Argentina’s Immigration History

When you learn Spanish in Argentina, you may indeed fall so deeply in love with the country that you want to move there. If you feel that way, you are certainly not alone. It is interesting to note that there have been various waves of people over the years that immigrated to Argentina from all over the world. Of course, to this day, people are still immigrating to this amazing country.

Argentina has typically had a pretty open immigration policy. In fact, the preamble of the constitution mentions that its precepts apply “to all men in the world who wish to dwell on Argentine soil.” Ever since the 19th century, the rulers of Argentina saw immigration as a very good thing. They were hoping to bring more “enlightened” individuals to the country to make it more modern and to boost the country’s economy. As a result, in the early to mid 1900s the population of Argentina rose considerably.

Most people who immigrated to Argentina came from either Italy or Spain, though people from a variety of other European and Eastern European countries also made their way to Argentina. Middle Eastern countries like Syria and Lebanon were also represented. Interestingly, a large wave of Jews immigrated to Argentina to escape poverty or religious persecution. Today, one of the largest Jewish populations in the world is based in Argentina. You can learn more about the Argentinean Jews by visiting their synagogues, restaurants, and various landmarks.

If you are attending Spanish classes in Buenos Aires, you will find that there are a great number of historical attractions related to the days of massive immigration. Most people who arrived in the city ended up staying, and you can visit landmarks, monuments, and churches dedicated to different cultures. For example, one famous landmark is Monumento de los Españoles or Monument of the Spaniards.

When you learn Spanish in Argentina, one of the most amazing things you will discover is the diversity of the people. A significant percentage of today’s Argentinean population was born outside the country. Of course, many people who live in Argentina come from other Latin American countries like Paraguay, Bolivia, and Chile, but you will also find those from places as diverse as China, Germany, Japan, and South Korea strongly represented.

Between your Spanish classes in Buenos Aires, it only makes sense to get out and discover more about the local culture. There are 50 different neighborhoods in the city, and each one has its own rich history to explore. It is exciting to immerse yourself in the culture by listening to the widely diverse conversations people are having, eating at different types of ethnic restaurants, and enjoying a variety of cultural activities.

Spain: Forging an Immigration Policy

Immigration became part of the Spanish government's agenda in 1985, but it was not until the mid-1990s that it became a matter of vital importance to political elites and in the eyes of the public. The sharp increase in the number of foreign residents in the last years, the recent polemical debate surrounding the reform the immigration law, the establishment of a political immigration framework known as the Plan Greco, and the shortcomings of the 2002 labor quota program have made immigration one of the most hotly contested issues in the media, and the second most important "national" issue for Spaniards after terrorism.

In the period 1850-1950, 3.5 million Spanish, mainly temporary workers, left for the Americas from three areas: Galicia, Asturias, and the Canary Islands. Argentina received more than 1.5 million of these emigrants, and others went to Uruguay, Brazil, and Cuba. Spanish emigration to North Africa, though less well known, also took place from areas such as Murcia and the Balareas Islands. Algeria was the chosen destination of 94,000 Spanish emigrants in the last years of the 19th century. This flow shifted to Morocco after the establishment of the Spanish protectorate there in the period 1916-1919. During that period, some 85,000 Spaniards were counted, a number that rose to 250,000 when taking into account the residents of Cueta, Malilla and Tanger.

Spain's migration flows in the 20th century changed radically in two different ways. First, the destinations of Spanish emigrants shifted dramatically. In the course of the century, some six million Spaniards left their country of origin, and until the 1930s, 80 percent chose to go to the Americas. From the 1950s to the mid-1970s, however, 74 percent chose the countries of Northern Europe. Second, in the last third of the 20th century, Spain evolved from its traditional role as a sending country and, increasingly, a transit country for migrants headed north. Spain became a receiving country for foreign laborers, mostly from Northern Africa and Latin America, and for well-to-do immigrants from other EU countries, such as retirees.

The inversion of Spanish migration flows was brought about by the international economic crisis of the early 1970s. While the number of emigrants fell, the number of immigrants continued to increase at a steady pace. From 1961 to 1974, at the height of the guest worker programs in Europe, about 100,000 people emigrated each year. Since then, the numbers indicate that Spain's period of high emigration has ended, with total departures falling off from 20,000 per year to just over 2,000 annually in recent years.

Spain's development into a country of immigration was part of a larger regional phenomenon. In the late 1980s, in the midst of economic crisis and the accompanying high unemployment, Mediterranean countries of Europe such as Spain, Portugal, and Italy, hitherto "way stations" or "waiting rooms" became receiving countries. This change was brought about by several factors, including the end of guest worker programs, the closing of the borders of traditional receiving countries, such as Germany, Switzerland, and France, the political evolution from authoritarian regimes, their proximity to the sending countries in the Maghreb, and the intense historical and economic bonds between both shores of the Mediterranean. Other contributing factors include the poor performance of the labor markets in the sending countries, the extent of the underground economy in the European countries (that relied on illegal immigration), and the admission of Portugal, Spain, and Greece into the European Community in the course of the 1980s made them "gateway" countries as well as frontline states on Europe's southernmost border.

Characteristics of Immigrants

The number of foreign residents in Spain increased significantly in the last quarter century. From 1975 to 1985, the increase was a moderate average of 2.2 percent annually. From 1985 to 1991 (which included the enactment of the Ley de Extranjería, the national immigration law, and the first extraordinary regularization process) the foreign population rose an average of seven percent annually. As of 1992, this figure had climbed to 10 percent annually. From 1992 to 2000, the numbers of people from developing countries increased 214 percent annually, much higher than the 60 percent increase in the number of foreigners from industrialized nations.

As the 2001 data show, the countries of origin of resident foreigners have shifted significantly in a short time. Moroccans and Ecuadorans have become the two largest nationalities, even as immigration from other EU countries continues to account for a large share of the total.

Even in the mid-1990s, half of all resident foreigners were European (Table 1). Of this percentage, the largest groups were from EU member countries: the United Kingdom (23 percent) Germany (17 percent) and Portugal (12 percent), whereas immigrants from Eastern Europe accounted for only four percent. Africans accounted for 19 percent, most than three fourths of them Moroccans. The latter group has seen the largest and most sustained increase over the last 25 years, to the point of becoming the most numerous foreign nationality in Spain at this time.

People from the Americas also saw their numbers grow at a constant pace, as they came to account for about 21 percent of all foreigners. Traditional groups such as Argentines, Venezuelans, and Chileans decreased as a relative share of the Latin American population, while others such as Peruvians, Dominicans, and Cubans saw their numbers grow more quickly. In absolute terms, there were few people from North America (United States, Canada, and Mexico) or Oceania. The relative share of the population of Asian origin diminished.

More recently, the proportion of Europeans among all foreign residents declined to 40.4 percent in 2000, and the African proportion increased to 29 percent. The difference between the number of Europeans and Africans, the two largest foreign communities, has diminished not because fewer Europeans have arrived, but because the African population has increased much more rapidly. The number of European immigrants increased 105,735 from 1995 to 2000, surpassing even the population increase for Latin Americans, which was 91,033. At the same time, there was an increase of 165,660 in the number of Africans. People from the Americas accounted for 22 percent of the total, Asians eight percent, and persons from Oceania an almost invisible 0.1 percent. The remainder of those counted were stateless people.

The latest official figures are provided the Delegación de Gobierno para la Extranjería y la Inmigracíon. The advantage of these numbers is that they were tallied subsequent to the last special regularization effort, which means they include a large part of the undocumented immigrant population. Spain's undocumented population is estimated to be over 200,000.

In 2001, resident foreigners in Spain accounted for 2.5 percent of the total population, and saw one of the largest annual increases in their numbers (23.81 percent) in recent years (Table 2). The biggest communities of resident foreigners were Moroccans (234,937), Ecuadorians (84,699), the British (80,183), Germans (62,506), Colombians (48,710), French (44,798), and Portuguese (42,634). These figures reflect the increasing size of the traditional Moroccan community, as well as the trend of increased immigration from Latin America. The fact that neither of the top two nationalities was an EU country, as had been the case just five years ago, brings Spain more in line with the tradition of immigration from third (i.e. non-EU) countries, a tradition also visible in other European Union countries.

Two points should be noted with respect to the settlement patterns of foreigners in Spain. First, immigrants have little mobility. By and large, immigrants tend not to move once they have settled. Second, the regions with the largest numbers of resident foreigners remained unchanged throughout the 1990s. Specifically, the "Mediterranean Autonomous Communities" of Catalonia, Valencia, Murcia, and Andalusia, as well as Madrid continue to host the largest numbers of immigrants.

Labor Force Participation of Immigrants in Spain

While migrants from other countries of the European Union are allowed to work in Spain, under the provisions of the Maastricht Treaty, workers from non-EU countries require a work permit, although many immigrants work illegally in Spain. Legal and unauthorized migrants are playing an increasing role in Spain's economy. Alongside economic factors, social networks have played a role in shaping labor market outcomes. Together with the segmentation of the Spanish labor market and a quota system that recruited workers by sector and province, these factors make for a visible labor-based stratification by ethnic group, thus creating labor-market niches.

At the close of 1999, non-EU foreign workers numbered 199,753, representing a slight increase (1.4 percent) over the previous year. By continent of origin, Africans comprise the largest group. They account for 50.5 percent (100,768) of all non EU foreign laborers, the majority (80,441) of which are from Morocco. The second largest group of workers come from the Americas and accounted for 29.0 percent of all work permits. Peruvians, Dominicans, and Ecuadorans dominate this category. Asians account for 28,177 permits. Lastly, workers from other non-EU European countries, such Poland and Romania, numbered 12,644. Although this group was the smallest group (6.33 percent of the total), it saw the greatest percentage increase with respect to the previous year (8.94 percent).

The service sector captures nearly 59 percent of all work permits for non-EU workers, followed by the agricultural sector (21 percent). Unlike other countries where immigrant labor has permeated construction and parts of industry, these sectors account for only nine and seven percent, respectively. By group, however, the percentages vary. Accordingly, 86 percent of the Latin Americans and 89 percent of the Asians are involved in the service sector, 39 percent of the Africans are employed in agriculture, and 15 percent of East Europeans work in construction.

The numbers of immigrants in the work force vary by province, too, depending on the leading economic sector. The autonomous communities with the largest number of workers are Catalonia (53,804), Madrid (48,402), and Andalusia (24,024), though the largest increases in the last two years have been in Murcia (32.69 percent) and the Canary Islands (22.71 percent).

Forging an Immigration Policy

Spain's first attempt at immigration legislation was under the then Socialist Party government. With Spain's admission to the European Community scheduled for 1986, the country was under pressure to conform to EC legislation that restricted non-EC citizen immigration. In 1985, Spain's first law, the Ley de Extranjería, or the Law on the Rights and Freedoms of Foreigners in Spain, approached most immigration as temporary phenomenon, and focused primarily on control over migrants already in the country. Immigrants were broadly conceptualized, first and foremost, as workers who required regulation by the Ministry of Labor.

The focus on control of immigrant access to the labor market hindered family reunification and proved to be an obstacle to stable residency of the foreign-born population. New policies required that migrants seek work visas and residency permits only after any job offer and, further, made it exceedingly difficult to renew required permits. As a result, many immigrants ended up in an illegal status In addition, the 1985 law called for employer sanctions that were weakly enforced.

While the 1985 legislation was more restrictive toward immigration and extremely weak with regard to immigrant rights, a 1996 amendment to the 1985 law recognized immigration as a structural phenomenon and acknowledged that the foreigners had a set of subjective rights. These rights included access to education, equality, legal counsel, and an interpreter when dealing with authorities. It strengthened the power of the regional governments to protect the rights of immigrant minors and formally established a quote system for temporary workers. Finally, the amendment established a permanent resident category and formally included family reunification within its framework.

Finally, in January 1998, an initiative emerged that tackled the issue of integration. Supported by three political parties, including Izquierda Unida, Convergencia I Unió, and Grupo Mixto (but not by the Partido Popular, which has governed since 1996), the Law on the Rights and Freedoms of Foreigners in Spain and their Integration (Law 4/2000) was passed and took force on January 12, 2000. This law is notable for the broad political consensus that backed it, for its clear focus on integration and the political and social rights extended to non-EU foreigners, and for its recognition of the permanent dimension of immigration.

Most importantly, this law marked the transition in Spain from a policies focused on controlling immigration flows (política de extranjería) to policies that looked more broadly at immigration and integration (política de immigración) for Spain. This is not so much because of the law's acknowledgement of immigrant rights but because of its conception of immigration as a permanent phenomenon, with political and administrative instruments devised to regulate it.

The Law 4/2000 on the Rights and Freedoms of Foreigners in Spain and their Social Integration was widely criticized by the ruling Partido Popular, which considered it too permissive and not along the more restrictive lines being promoted by the European Union. The party's parliamentary majority after the March 2000 elections enabled it to pass Law 8/2000 to amend the previous legislation. The regulation enacting the law took force in mid-2001, and set forth a reform agenda for issuing work and residency permits and visas.

Furthermore, in aligning itself with common European policy on immigration and asylum, the law addressed access and control measures, reflected an effort to ensure integration of legal immigrants and limit unauthorized immigration, and paved the way for the signing of cooperation agreements with the main sending countries to manage inflows from the point of origin.

Spain has signed several bilateral agreements of this kind with Ecuador, Colombia, Morocco, Dominican Republic, Nigeria, Poland, and Romania. These agreements, with the exception of the Nigerian agreement on repatriation, are focused on negotiating administrative formulas for access to Spain and its labor market. These agreements regulate labor opportunities and, as such, provide for the communication of employment offers, the assessment of professional requirements, travel, and reception. They also work to enhance migrant labor and social rights and the work conditions of the immigrant workers. In addition, the agreements special provisions for seasonal workers and the measures to facilitate their return to their home countries.

The 2000 law was the starting point for the emergence of the Global Programme to Regulate and Coordinate Foreign Residents' Affairs and Immigration in Spain. The so-called Plan Greco is a multiyear initiative initiated in 2001 and expected to run until 2004. Falling within the Interior Ministry, and specifically, the Immigration Department, the Plan Greco is designed to address four key areas:

1. Global, coordinated design of immigration as a desirable phenomenon for Spain, as a member of the European Union
2. Integration of foreign residents and their families as active contributors to the growth of Spain
3. Admission regulation to ensure peaceful coexistence within Spanish society, and
4. Management of the shelter scheme for refugees and displaced persons.

Based on the territorial organization of the Spanish state, and its political and administrative decentralization, the Plan Greco acknowledges the vital role that regional governments will play in integrating the immigrant population. The 2000 law and the Plan Greco are both explicit in their recognition that it is the development and implementation of integration policies at the local level that will have the greatest impact on integration.

In May 2000, a state secretariat, the Delegación de Gobierno para la Extranjería y la Inmigración, with broad powers was established under the Ministry of Interior to deal with immigrant issues. The head of the new secretariat is a leading member of two governmental agencies: the Inter-Ministerial Commission on Immigration Affairs, which is entrusted with analyzing government actions that impact the treatment of foreigners, immigration, and asylum and the Superior Council on Immigration Policy that coordinates different levels of government on immigration affairs. The secretariat's chief also serves on a government immigration oversight body, and nominates candidates for president of the Forum for the Social Integration of Immigrants. This concentration of power under the Ministry of the Interior signals a shift from its former seat in the Labor Ministry.

Extraordinary Regularization Processes

The harsh policies introduced under the 1985 law left large numbers of immigrants without the proper documentation to reside and work in Spain. As a result, the government launched a regularization program that ultimately had little impact, given the distrust that had developed between the government and immigrants due to the 1985 legislation. Only 23,000 immigrants of 44,000 applications were legalized.

Subsequent extraordinary regularization processes were initiated in 1991. With the help of immigrant support organizations, more than 110,000 immigrants applied for legal status. However, after three years, 50 percent of those immigrants that had legalized their status under the 1991 procedures had fallen back into an illegal status.

Additional regularization programs have taken place in 1996, 2000, and 2001 to compensate for ineffective and restrictive admissions policies. These programs have granted initial residency permits valid for one year, but the limited duration and the difficulties in renewing such permits has forced many immigrants back into an back into an irregular status.

A special regularization procedure on grounds of family reunification took place in 1994. Although the official goal was to unify families, many unauthorized immigrants with family members legally in Spain used the opportunity to legalize their status.

In addition to regularization programs, and paralleling Spain's work permit system, the country has experimented with a labor quota system to respond to short and long-term shortages in the labor market. Quotas have been used in 1993-1995, 1997-1999 and in 2002.

Before 2002, the quota has channelled legal immigration flows to sectors of the Spanish economy facing a shortage of native workers. The quota system had another effect: many illegal immigrants viewed it as a way to gain legal status in the country. Most applications for a position within the quota system came from undocumented immigrants already in Spain.

In 2002, the quota system was reformed. To ensure continuity and stability, the government is now required to establish annual quotas for foreign workers. In particular, before work permits can be granted, the National Employment Institute (Instituto Nacional de Empleo) must issue a report on the nation's employment situation. If it determines that there are no unemployed workers available for open positions, then foreign labor can be considered. Second, in an effort to reduce illegal immigration, the government now only hires foreign workers from their countries of origin and through bilateral agreements with sending countries. Undocumented immigrants in Spain can no longer use this channel to seek work.

In 2000, 7,926 asylum applications were filed, and favorable rulings were handed down in 453 cases, covering 752 individuals. Claimants of the following nationalities were the most numerous: Colombian (17 percent of the total), Nigerian (11 percent), Sierra Leonean (19 percent), and Cuban (11 percent). People of other nationalities seeking asylum were principally from Algeria and former Eastern bloc countries, such as Armenia, Romania, Russia, and Ukraine.

However, both employers and labor unions agree that the 2002 labour quota was a failure. While the government set a quota of 32,079 workers (10,884 permanent workers and 21,195 temporary workers), it was widely viewed of falling short of meeting labor needs. In particular, some labor unions estimated that another 10,000 workers were necessary in the agricultural sector. In 2003, the quota has been fixed at 24,337 foreign workers (10,575 permanents workers and 13,762 temporary workers). By reducing the quota for temporary workers by almost 10,000 less than the 2002 number, the government has signalled that it continues to seek to limit immigration.

Currently, the Law 8/2000 is being challenged before the Constitutional Court by Partido Socialista Obrero Español. The quota system has also come under criticism by several immigrant support groups and political parties. Although the Plan Greco promises to focus on integration and local governments are developing this issue, it appears that the government will continue to push forward with an agenda to slow immigration and to focus on border protection. With a 23 percent increase in immigration in 2002, it is unclear how the government's policies to limit immigration will square with the new immigration context.

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