The Continents and the Main Countries of Origin of Immigrants

For the majority of the countries of the Americas that are part of this report, immigration is an issue of the Americas, that is, the majority of immigrants, both permanent and temporary, came from the Western Hemisphere (Table 3) in 2010. Only in Canada, the United States and Brazil were the majority of immigrants not originally from the Americas.

Indeed, for most of the countries in Table 3, more than 80% of the immigrants came from other countries in the Americas. Linguistic differences can be a barrier to high-skill migration, but tend to be less important for low-skill migration, as the sizeable movements from Mexico and Central America to the United States illustrate. However, the absence of language barriers between many of the countries in the region has undoubtedly facilitated movement in many cases.

Many of the observed movements also occur between bordering countries and have been stimulated by regional agreements that facilitate movement, in particular Mercosur, the Andean Community, CARICOM and the Central American Common Market (CACM). However, movements within Latin America and the Caribbean represented in 2010 only half of the region’s flows to Canada and the United States, where entry is subject to regulation and control. This well illustrates the predominance of economic motivations in migration.

Asia was the continent of origin for approximately 45% of immigrants to Canada and the United States, while immigrants from the rest of the Americas accounted for approximately a quarter of migrants to these two countries. These latest figures do not include unauthorized migration to the United States, but movements of this type are estimated to have declined to a level of 300,000 a year by 2009, after a surge of approximately 850,000 a year in the first half. of the decade (Passel and Cohn 2010). Adding these movements, still

(Table 3: Immigration in the Americas by continent of origin, 2010)

would leave the movements of the rest of the Americas roughly 150,000 below Asia. Three other countries (Belize, Brazil and Peru) recorded percentages of around 20% of immigrants from Asia but all other countries were close to or below 10%. European immigrants, on the other hand, accounted for between a quarter and a third of all immigrants in Brazil, Peru, and the Dominican Republic and almost 20% in Canada, Mexico, and the United States.

Africa has an almost negligible representation among immigrants in the Americas, with the exception of Belize (10%), Canada (8%), the United States (6%), and Brazil (4%). The United States appears among the first ten countries of origin (Graph 4) of all the countries of the Americas that are included without exception, and among the first five in total except for two of them (Argentina and Barbados). China also has a significant representation in the top ten although less prominently than the United States. The largest countries in Latin America, namely Colombia, Peru, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, are among the top ten countries of origin in about half of the countries in the region.

In 2010, in a certain number of destination countries there was a strong concentration of immigration with respect to a single border country, representing between 40% and 50% of all immigrants from these countries, both temporary and permanent. These included Argentina (from Paraguay), Barbados (from Guyana), Bolivia and Chile (from Peru), and Costa Rica (from Nicaragua). All these movements are facilitated by regional agreements. This is also the case for movements between Canada, Mexico and the United States, often in the context of NAFTA, although their relative importance to the total number of movements in these countries is less significant.

Thus, with the exception of Canada and the United States, the immigration story in 2010 in the countries of the Americas continued to be one of limited immigration, mostly regional in nature with the possible exception of Brazil and Peru, whose already small-scale movements were more geographically diverse. Despite the economic crisis and difficult labor market conditions in OECD destination countries, movements continued in 2010, a phenomenon that will be examined in more depth later in this report.

(Graph 4. Top ten countries of origin of permanent and temporary international migrants, 2010)

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