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  • Open Access

Immigrants and civil rights in cross-national perspective: Lessons from North America

Comparative Migration Studies20151:1010045

  • Published:


The degree to which a nation envisions civil rights as applying to all residents offers insight into its commitment to and capacity for immigrant inclusion. A much-debated question is whether there is a trend toward convergence in national policies around immigrant inclusion, given globalization and the rise in human rights norms. Or do institutional legacies and domestic politics tend to preserve old approaches? This issue has been investigated most thoroughly in European contexts. Here we examine the cases of Canada and the United States. We find that while Canada and the United States, both settler societies, have much in common, they differ significantly in their historical experience with civil rights, which helps explain differences in how they approach the inclusion of immigrants in their societies. While civil rights has more potential for advancing immigrant concerns in the United States, neither country readily envisions immigrant inclusion as a civil rights issue.


  • immigrant inclusion
  • civil-rights regimes
  • language of rights
  • convergence hypothesis
  • institutional legacies