Migrants & Displaced Persons

Immigrant FamilyPeople immigrate for a variety of reasons. Sometimes people leave their countries of origin or residence because of a lack of opportunity or to unite with loved ones. Sometimes people move to escape situations that threaten their livelihood and/or well-being. 

According to the United Nations, the number of migrants – persons living in a country other than where they were born – worldwide reached 281 million in 2020. This figure includes 34 million refugees – double the number of people living as refugees in 2000.

Debates about immigration are raging across the globe. These debates typically pit labor demands against border security concerns. Debate has gone hand-in-hand with rising xenophobia, as modern-day immigrants in high-income countries typically do not share the same racial/ethnic characteristics of the majority in the country to which they migrate. The United States is no exception.

Immigration in the United States

Approximately 44.7 million immigrants, about 13.7% of the country's population, lived in the United States as of 2018. The country of origin for recent waves of immigrants differs from those of earlier immigration waves. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the majority of immigrants came from Europe. Today, the majority of immigrants coming to the United States are from Latin America and Asia. Mexican immigrants alone account for 25% of all immigrants living in the United States. Thus, this immigration wave, unlike earlier ones, is changing the country’s racial and ethnic complexion. 

Each wave of immigration in the United States has brought with it political and cultural turmoil. The most recent wave is no exception. Most recently, President Trump has called for building a wall between the United States and Mexico and has issued a travel ban for six predominantly Muslim countries. 

As an organization dedicated to promoting the mental health and well-being of all, especially the most vulnerable among us, we reiterate our commitment to immigrants and refugees and express concern about the impact recent decisions and potential future policy efforts may have on immigrant and refugee children and families. As demographer Paul Taylor has written, "Immigrants are the America that always was and the America that is unfolding."

Our Work on Immigration 

Immigration is an issue of grave concern to the Global Alliance. The organization has adopted a position statement on the impact of immigration enforcement on children and families. The statement calls for the development of comprehensive immigration reform legislation that incorporates family-centered policies which promote family unity. 

After issuing the position statement, Global Alliance Fellows remained active in the area of immigration, including publishing articles in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry – "How do immigration and customs enforcement practices affect the mental health of children?" and "Talking about immigration: Community voices on service, research, and policy needs" – organizing a task force, and participating in an immigration summit. 

At the 2017 Policy and Research Conference on Child, Adolescent, and Young Adult Behavioral Health, our former Vera Paster award winner Sara Buckingham, PhD(c), gave a presentation entitled, "'It has cost me a lot to adapt to here’: The divergence of real acculturation from ideal acculturation explains poorer psychosocial wellbeing of Latina/o immigrants." To learn more about her research on acculturation and its effect on the well-being of Latina/o immigrants, listen to our podcast

Research on Immigration

Want to learn more?

What can you do? 

  • Learn more about the history of immigration and current policies in the United States.
  • Make immigrants living in your community feel welcome. 
  • Donate to or volunteer for an organization that provides services and resources to immigrants.