“The Mexican restaurant had a kitchen full of expats.”
Expat: a person who lives outside their native country whether temporarily or permanently.
Immigrant: a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country.
Is it us, or do these two words seem to mean the exact same thing? Linguistically, yes. In the real world? No. In reality, any white person (European, Australian, etc) traveling outside of their native land can afford the luxury of distinguishing themselves as an “expat”. Anyone, it seems, not of Caucasian decent settling outside of their homeland is referred to as an immigrant.
Both the Brexit and U.S. Republican campaign of 2017 were heavily based upon the promise of a heavier hand when it came to ‘immigration’ laws. But when it comes to our vision of an “immigrant” do we imagine a white person, or a person of color? At what point will we admit, that this is about race. Immigrant, if comparable to someone described as an “Expat” should yield no further connotations than the meaning itself. However, what has come to be is the word “immigrant” is used as a powerful tool for fear mongering among political tactics. Why? Because the underlying meaning of “immigrant” has become; “those that are coming to steal our jobs”.
Academically of course it isn’t about race. Academically, we can all sit around talking about the semantics of the two words, the origins and the historical implications.The two words, expat and immigrant, should be interchangeable, but unfortunately they’re not. Immigration has become a trigger word and is therefore powerful in any play for control.