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im·mi·grant (ĭmĭ-grənt)
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n.
1. A person who leaves one country to settle permanently in another.
2. An organism that establishes itself in an area where it previously did not exist.
adj.
Of or relating to immigrants or the act of immigrating.

Usage Note: Everyone agrees that the word immigrant can be applied to someone who moves voluntarily to a given country or region intending to settle there. But is it acceptable to refer to the enslaved Africans who were brought to America against their will in the 1600s, 1700s, and 1800s as “immigrants”? In recent years, more than one politician and textbook publisher has attracted ridicule and condemnation for describing the enslaved Africans as if they were simply another of the many immigrant groups that helped make America what it is today. Whether the slaves were or were not immigrants in some sense is a matter of delicate semantic interpretation, but it is probably not appropriate to refer to them as such without significant qualification; to do so is likely to be taken as ignoring the extraordinary brutality of the transatlantic slave trade.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 

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