brave, travel, fear, work

contentious, Mexico, intense

controversial, children, politics

culture, new life, confusion

Difficult, restrictions, sensitive

Ellis island

fresh blood, new chance, mixing

future, consumerism, laws, Mexico

hopes, hardships, language, to move

illegal immigrants, strict, regulate

illegal, politics, debates

new life,tough

problematic, regulations, illegal, Mexican

to pack, to settle, strange

travel, borders, police

Work Opportunities, Money, Education

work, money, insecurity

étranger, politique, clandestin

étrangers, changer de pays

étrangers, culture, langues

étrangers, Guéant, frontières

étrangers, problèmes, culture

croissance, diversité, Ellis Island

découverte, exploration, problème



mélange culturel, visa, avion

mixité, diversité, métissage

mixité, métissage, espoir

Mondialisation, Culture, Découverte


politique, controverse,


voyage, intégration, différence culturelle, préjugés


En comparant les termes utilisés sur ce sujet, il semblerait que l'immigration soit plus vue comme un problème aux Etats-Unis qu'en France.

Pourtant, d'un point de vue historique, les Etats-Unis semblent plus proche du modèle "multi-culturel" (melting pot/ salad bowl).

Comment expliquez-vous ceci ?

I was surprised by this as well, and I'm not sure what the reason is. It's possible that because the US has this reputation for being a melting pot, there are many immigrants that want to come (especially from Mexico, with whom we share an extensive border), so there is a lot of attention on issues like illegal immigration.

What is France's attitude toward illegal immigration? Are immigration regulations very strict, or are people more welcoming? It seemed that many of you have a positive view of immigration and see it as a good opportunity - is this correct?

I don't think the responses necessarily indicate that Americans think of immigration as a problem.  We hear a lot of talk about illegal immigration, because it's one of the main things political candidates like to argue about, so I'm not surprised that words having to do with illegal immigration, Mexico, debates, and politics came up often.  Some of the French responses also had to do with politics.

It did seem to me that the Americans focused more on the point of view of the immigrants the French did.  The Americans used words like "hope," "brave," "new life," "fear," and "opportunities."  Perhaps the American students identified more with immigrants for the historical reasons Arnaud mentioned.  Meanwhile, half of the French responses included the word "foreigners," while none of the American ones did, though a few referred specifically to Mexico. 

In France, are recent immigrants thougth of as foreign or as French?  Do people tend to lump together all immigrants as "foreigners" or think of them in terms of the country they came from?

In my opinion, immigrations is a huge problem in the US. On the 'American' side, words like 'illegal', 'politics', and 'restrictions' come up not only on the list, but also in casual conversation. There have been many changes to the laws and acts of immigrations, especially when it comes to numbers allowed per region in the 20th century, and this has cause more strenous regulations and greater discrimination. Words like 'new life', 'mixing' and 'language' are only in theory, and in practice, there still exist line of segregration for ethnicity, race and culture in most states in the US. The American 'melting pot' is by and large a failure.

It is worthwile to note though that the US is the only developed sovereign nation in the eastern hemisphere, and with the exception of Canada, the only first world country. This places more stress with respect to refuges and illegal immigration. 

Jonn-Ross Andrews

March 04, 2012


Nous sommes en période de campagne éléctoriale et l'immigration est un sujet qui revient très souvent dans les médias en ce moment. En France, les immigrants sont vus comme des groupes ethniques principalement par opposition à des personnes venant de pays différents (on parle de "Maghrébains", d'"Africains" et d'"Asiatiques"), donc plus vus comme des "étrangers".

De plus il existe en France un sentiment assez présent de peur de ces mêmes immigrants (à cause du chômage, mais aussi pour beaucoup d'autres raisons comme la peur des cultures que l'on ne connaît pas). Cependant nous avons besoin en France de l'immigration, déjà pour pourvoir des postes dont peu de personnes ne veulent (travaux manuels, etc... ) mais aussi pour faire venir des concepts auxquels nous n'auriont pas pensé.

Le politiquement correct veut que nous en ayons une bonne image, mais il est vrai que beaucoup de Français en ont peur.

The main difference between the French and the Americans is the existence of a more unified culture in France than in the US. The United States is a mixture of cultures, as mentioned before; therefore, the issue of immigration isn't feared by the Americans; however, Americans are weary of the consequences of illegal immigration and the high costs of border control. On the other side, the French share more of a common history and common cultural background; therefore, any new comers that might have different beliefs or cultural identities are feared because of the effect this might have on the French culture.        

                                                                                           John Yazbek

                                                                                                Mar 05, 2012

Arnaud --

The reason the answers by Americans were very negative is because illegal immigration has surged from Latin America, causing huge financial and social problems. While many Americans certainly hold some bigotted views, we are taught throughout our lifetimes to value the vitality that comes from being a melting pot -- but through legal immigration. Immigration has become one of the hottest issues in the Republican primary battle because so many Americans are really angry that people have come here illegally, used social services that taxpayers pay for, and then eventually are allowed to stay because they've lived here so long. It's a very complicated problem that politicians of both parties -- the Democratic and the Republican parties -- haven't figured out how to solve.

I have a couple of questions about the words on the French side.

What (who?) is Guéant?

Why is "découverte" there three times?  What is the context?

Hey Emmanuel,

I am confused by your comment 'déjà pour pourvoir des postes dont peu de personnes ne veulent'. Is your view that immigrants are needed to do the work that noone else wants to do?

I would have to strongly agree with Deb's analysis of the situation. 
(To put my comments in context, I am the son of a legal, Mexican immigrant)

The issue with (illegal) immigration in the U.S. is our unique placement. Because we are, excepting Canada, the only fully developed country, what ends up happening is that the poorest of the poor from Mexico and the rest of Central and South America illegally immigrate hoping to make something for themselves. Speaking from experience, life in Mexico is absolutely wonderful (except for the drug war) if one has money. Thus, the net effect is that every other country in the Western Hemisphere is exporting its poverty here to the U.S. This leads to the financial strains that Deb mentioned. 
I may not be as educated concerning immigration in France, but I would assume that, because there is a higher incidence of developed nations in Europe, there are far fewer people there that are as poor as the typical illigal immigrant here in America.


Needless to say, because illegal  immigrants must be supported by taxpayer funded services, their presence is not well tolerated by the average taxpayer whose services are being cut to compensate for this outflow of cash.

Claude Guéant est le ministre de l'intérieur actuel. Sa politique sur l'immigration est extrêmement controversée, et il possède une image vraiment négative à cause de ça. Il veut forcer le retour des immigrés dans leur pays d'origine, et cela provoque un vrai tollé en France.

I would like to add that although there are words with a negative meaning associated with immigration in the U.S., the words used to describe immigration are much more personal in the U.S. than the words used to describe immigration in France. Expressions like "new life", "work opportunities", and "future" show that immigration, although a problem, is also seen as a way to a new life. This may be because there are more representatives from both extremes in the U.S., new immigrants and many generation Americans, which is why there is a contrasting view on immigration and why such a contrast does not appear in the French answers.

I agree with Carlos on the fact that it is the poorest of these other countries which are illegally immigrating to the US and thus the overall connotation on immigration is a negative one.  But I would also like to point out that although the issues have been long-standing, it has been heightened and intensified primarily due to resent surges in unemployment.  I find this somewhat similar to the current situation in France.  Due to rising unemployment rates, the different EU countries are no longer able to hire individuals with non-EU passports, regardless of how skilled they are.  In fact, the process for obtaining work visas for "foreigners" has become increasingly stringent and difficult.

I also noticed that words like "opportunity" and "new life" show up more in the American responses. In contrast, the positive words written by French students are words like "découverte," "exploration," etc., and the French students also mentioned words like "mélange" and "métissage" much more often. Combined with Emmanuel's comment that the French think of immigrants more in terms of their ethnicity than citizenship, I wonder if maybe Americans' concerns about immigration are more economic (immigrants come here to find better jobs, and Americans are concerned about financially supporting them), whereas in France immigration is more a cultural issue.

What is the French people's attitude toward the cultural diversity brought by immigrants? Are immigrants encouraged to assimilate into French culture, or do native French citizens try to learn and take on aspects from the arriving cultures? Or is it both?

I agree with what Anne posted. I feel like the French highly regard their cultural heritage and history. The fear in France might be of diluting their culture with foreign cultures, especially those originating from countries the French had colonized. This fear has materialised in the debates on immigration and the issue of the veil worn by muslim women.

On the other hand, as previously mentioned, Americans fear the economic ramifications of illegal immigration and border control. However, the debate over immigration is held with some degree of caution out of fear of racial discrimination. 

What is the degree of racial discrimination in France? Are immigrants treated differently than the French citizens?

John brings an interesting topic to the plate. Are the people from the départments et territoires d'outre-mer who migrate to France considered immigrants? How do local french inhabitants feel about this migration?

Pour revenir à ce que disait Carlos : "I would assume that, because there is a higher incidence of developed nations in Europe, there are far fewer people there that are as poor as the typical illigal immigrant here in America", l'immigration en France depuis d'autres pays d'Europe est très faible comparée à celle de personnes venant du Maghreb et d'Afrique en général. Les personnes venant d'autres pays d'Europe ne peuvent d'ailleurs pas vraiment être considérées comme immigrants, puisqu'il n'y a plus vraiment de frontières au sein de l'espace de Shengen. Du coup le problème est le même : les immigrants sont majoritairement des personnes très pauvres qui cherchent à gagner plus d'argent que là d'où elles viennent.

Je ne sais pas si c'est pareil aux USA, mais un des problèmes est que l'argent que les immigrants gagnent en France est souvent renvoyé dans leur pays d'origine pour aide leur famille, du coup cet argent n'est pas dépensé en France est c'est une importante fuite de richesse.


You are mostly right. A lot ot the money earned by immigrants in the US goes to their families in other countries. However, sometimes a lot it goes right back into the US economy to buy goods, which are then sent back to the immigrant's families, particularly their children. The term for this in the West Indies is 'barrel children', and in this respect the US does not suffer much, but may actually gain.

On the other hand, these immigrants take the jobs of many citizens, as they are willing to work 'under the table' for lower wages and under poor conditions, which contributes to the rising unemployment rate that the US is currently facing. Clearly this is a very complex issue.

Is there is french colloquial expression for 'barrel children'?

To Jon-Ross:

Il y a un assez fort taux de chômage en France, et pourtant certains secteurs comme les BTP (bâtiments et travaux publics, c'est à dire la construction) ou la restauration recrutent énormément. Le problème est que ces travails sont extrêment pénibles et difficiles, et que peu de gens en veulent. Bien sûr certaines personnes n'ont pas le choix ou d'autres en ont envie, mais pour pourvoir à ces postes, la France a besoin de l'immigration.

Les français sont en règle générale assez réactionnaires, et ont du mal à accepter cette immigration malgré le fait qu'elle soit nécessaire. De plus, peu de choses sont faites pour changer cette mentalité et notre vision de l'immigration. Il règne en France une peur de l'étranger.

Ta question sur les français d'outre mer (ceux qui viennent des departements et territoires d'outre mer) est très intéressante. En effet, la plupart des français réfléchissant en termes ethniques les considéreront comme étrangers. Néanmoins, ils s'adaptent bien plus à la société car imprégnés de la culture française. De ce fait, ils sont plus à même d'être considérés comme des français à part entière que comme des migrants.

To Kieran:

En effet, les français, notamment à cause du chômage, ont peur que les immigrés "volent" leur travails. Cette peur est exploitée par certains politiciens pour gagner des voix, et elle n'est donc pas prête de disparaître.

To John:

La discrimination raciale n'est pas trop présente en France, mais elle n'est en même temps pas très médiatisée. Dans un cadre formel, les immigrants ne seront pas (à part certains cas isolés) traîtés différemment, ou peu. Par contre dans un cadre informel, on peut sentir un certain racisme. Nous avons en France une politique de quotas (surtout dans les administrations) et de nombreuses lois qui protègent contre la discrimination (vous pouvez vous renseigner sur la HALDE (Haute Autorité de Lutte contre les Discriminations et pour l'Égalité : mais elles ont bien sûr leurs limites et ils y a en France toujours des problèmes d'inégalités.