An American Flag and an card with the words, "immigration vs. refugee."

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The terms “refugees” and “immigrants” often come up when politics and the media begin talking about immigration. While most people acknowledge that there is a difference, not many know exactly what it is. When it comes to immigration, it is extremely important to know this difference as there are different economic, social, and legal implications. The dedicated legal team at the Hernandez Law Group P.C. has the answer to the vital question, “what is the difference between immigrants and refugees?”

What Is a Refugee?

The term refugee describes an individual who is fleeing their home country in fear of armed conflicts or persecution. United States Immigration Law takes this definition a step further and says, “a refugee is someone who is located outside of the United States and is of special humanitarian concern to the United States. They demonstrate that they were persecuted or fear persecution due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.”

What Is an Immigrant?

An immigrant refers to a person who chooses to move to another country to find work, seek out better education or employment opportunities, or reunite with their family. Unlike a refugee who is fleeing persecution, an immigrant can travel back to their home country if they choose. This is an extremely important distinction for governments as they handle who goes in and out of their country through their different immigration laws.

Why is the Difference Important?

By the end of 2019, there were roughly 26 million refugees in the world. Half of them were children. While immigrants are choosing to leave their country, a refugee has to do so out of fear of persecution. Refusing a refugee could have serious and deadly consequences for the individual seeking asylum. This is why both United States Law and International Law grant certain rights to refugees that are not granted to immigrants.

Could an Immigrant Be Moving Due to Fear as Well?

The short answer is yes. However, the main distinction here is that while an immigrant may be leaving their country due to unrest, famine, or economic collapse, they have a lot more choices available to them. For example, they get to choose what happens to their belongings, they can choose where they apply to migrate to, and they don’t have the constant fear of persecution if they were to return to their country.

Refugees on the other hand don’t have the same liberties. Instead, they are given rights of protection from deportation and are given access to social services to help them start over. Migrants do not have these same protection rights and they are required to follow the laws and procedures for the country they are choosing to move to, or else they face deportation back to their homeland.

Looking to Immigrate to the United States?

If you are looking to migrate to the United States but are not sure where to get started when applying for your green card or visa, the dedicated immigration attorneys at the Hernandez Law Group, P.C. can help. We understand that the legal processes surrounding immigration can be difficult to navigate, which is why our team ensures that you know what is happening and what is expected of you each step of the way. Contact our team today for more information on our services or to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.