There’s a big part of my personality that’s into taxonomy as a way of figuring out things and having a frame of reference. But so much modern media and zeitgeist is against having a frame of reference (as opposed to contextless slogans and hashtags and freeflowing emotional gook).
The weird insistence on referring to the Mexican national and felon who killed Kate Steinle as an ‘immigrant’ is a point in question. In what universe is this guy an ‘immigrant’? Similarly to the hoary old cliche ‘America is a country of immigrants’ which has actually never been true in any important way.
Some time ago for completely different reasons I had come up with a taxonomy of people who move to other countries for non-trivial amounts of time.
This is just a first approximation and a fair amount of people (and some groups) don’t fall neatly into one group or another and the names are idiosyncratic but i think it’s not a terrible starting place to start talking about these issues as much as that flies in the face of the present zeitgeist.
The primary division is between what might be called the voluntarily mobile versus the non-voluntarily mobile
Settlers want to create a new society in a new place. Cults can be seen as a type of domestic settlers who separate themselves without travel in order to try to create a new society.
Colonists set up “satellite” versions of their home cultures (something like a franchise) seeking to maintain its language and social culture and political organization. With time a new culture will probably develop and may seek independence.
Diasporists move to existing societies but remain apart from them, usually for religious reasons. The difference between them and colonists is that they are not necessarily trying to establish any kind of political organization apart from that needed to mediate with the host society.
Pioneers expand existing societies by settling in new areas (close to the original society) which may or may not be inhabited by others. There may be attempts to assimilate or displace those already there.
Colonialists seek to bring new areas under their economic, political (and/or cultural) control. There may or may not be attempts to assimilate the indigenous population.
Ex-pats live temporarily (or permanently) in a different country without seeking citizenship or any kind of deeper participation in the local society. There may be some level of temporary engagement but identity in all its more important forms remains with the home country.
Gastarbeiters move temporarily to another country to work for higher wages than they can earn at home. The original intention is almost never to stay permanently (though this often happens).
Resource seekers move in order to take resources from the target country either through exploitation of social benefits or outright crime. They do not usually seek (legal) employement.
Immigrants set out (or decide) to join an established society that they were not born into, the process involves transferring their political loyalty and patriotic feelings to the new society. They expect their children to be more like their new countrymen than themselves (or accept that this will happen).
Wanderers don’t quite know why they’re where they are. They tend to have high hopes of joining a new society but have problems following through. They are often a kind of non-professional ex-pat moving locations priodically looking for a place to fit in.
Refugees want to escape war or oppression or who are forcefully expelled (en masse) from their homeland.
Asylum seekers face individualized oppression in their home countries and seek refuge in another. Defectors are a class of asylum seeker, since the attempt at defection itself would bring about oppression if they are returned.
Exiles find themselves abroad and unable to return to their country and/or are stripped of citizenship and forcefully expelled.
This is not exhaustive and as I said, many to most people don’t fall completely in line with any single group but the list can start as a way to start untangling the motivations of different mobile people and groups and might help as a tool in setting policy.
I don’t know if those involved with migration studies use any kind of typology like this. I can simultaneously imagine both that they do (and use their own typology) or that they don’t (and reject any kind of typology).
In a day or two I’ll have a post on how to apply these categories to specific cases.