Immigrant or Migrant? What Am I?

The two words ‘immigrant’ and ‘migrant’ sometimes get confused in my head. These two terms of identity are tossed around frequently by the media, so much so, I paused to reflect upon my own situation.

Am I an immigrant or a migrant?

I decided I better do some homework on the topic. Here is what I discovered.

Migration simply means moving. The term migrant worker describes someone who moves around to work. I immediately conjure up a picture of farm laborers, moving around to harvest our crops, going, moving, following their work.

picking vegetables - migrant workersPhoto Credit

I am eternally grateful to these dedicated people. Their efforts put food on our tables. They perform the back-breaking work, few of us wish to do.

After digging a few drills of potatoes with my mother in Ireland, many years ago, I spent days suffering the aches and pains of a lazy man’s back. I do not pick vegetables, but I am a migrant. I have moved from New York, to Florida, to Texas, then finally to Kentucky, following a labor route. My final destination has brought me to my ‘labor of love’ – full-time stay-at-home mom – the most difficult, yet rewarding job ever.

Migrant worker - Great Depression

Photo Credit

I love this photo of 32 year-old, Florence Thompson, with 3 of her 7 children.  She was a migrant worker in California during the Great Depression.

I did not move with the harvest, over the course of a year. I remained in each of my chosen locations for many seasons. Although, I do not fit the typical portrait of a migrant, nonetheless, I am a migrant.

Immigration also involves movement, but this time, the mover crosses a national frontier.

Prohibido - border crossingPhoto Credit

I have been blessed by America, having been granted legal entry because of my education. Yet, I am, and always will be, an immigrant. I crossed the border, when my plane landed in New York, and my passport was inspected and stamped by an immigration officer.

Now, imagine two unemployed auto workers in Detroit, who must move to find employment. One hops on a trolley, and moves his family a few miles across a bridge to Windsor, Ontario.

The other gets in his car and drives cross country to Seattle, Washington. The immigrant, in this case, merely crossed a bridge to a new land; the migrant traveled thousands of miles within his own country.

Therefore, I have come to the conclusion:

I am an immigrant.

I am a migrant.

I am a migrant-immigrant, who has hopefully now put down roots.


Slan agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)


Irish American Mom

P.S.  The picture of Florence Thompson has been reworked with a touch of color.  Both versions are powerfully moving, so I thought I would show you the color version too.  Let me know which you prefer in the comment section below.

California migrant worker - The Great Depression

Photo Credit