Expatriates, immigrants and refugees in Brazil: trajectories and insertion strategies


Increased levels of international migration have become a significant political issue in many countries in recent years. In the case of Brazil, the immigration law, created in 1980 and still in force, is reminiscent of the period of the military dictatorship, focusing on national security and restricted to the attraction of qualified labor. The difficulties imposed by the law are intensified by a nonintegrated administration of immigration, among different State actors, marked by slow and inefficient bureaucratic processes, whose greatest bottleneck is the service provided in immigration posts. At the beginning of the 2010s another two immigrant profiles appeared: nationals from the Mercosul countries, and refugees, especially Haitians, creating a type of immigrant hierarchy, distinguishing between desirable and undesirable immigrants, with differentiated access to legal, social, and cultural resources for their integration in society, a reality also found in other countries. Based on qualitative research carried out with immigrants, both legal and illegal, this paper aims to discuss in a comparative manner the economic and social insertion strategies used by these three profiles of migrants expatriates, immigrants, and refugees – to deal with migration control mechanisms and constraints in Brazil. That new type of immigration, in opposition of the flow of European origin, is black or brown and suffer prejudice from society, media and even sectors of public power. The article concludes that the immigrants who obtained success in integrating themselves in the labor market were not necessarily those who had better professional performance, but those who understood the different strategies of social navigation, in which Brazilians create modes of facing the specific contradictions and paradoxes between the law and the social reality, in a typically Brazilian manner. At last, we propose that Brazil might be considered what the literature calls a case of "reverse immigration policy paradox"