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Immigration and Diaspora Tropes

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“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free
The wretched refuse of your teaming shore.
Send these, the homeless, the tempest-tost to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus

This index is for all tropes related to human migration; including emigration (the act of moving out of one's own country), immigration (the act of relocating to another country), and diasporas (international communities of migrants and their descendants living outside of their original homelands).


  • Checkpoint Charlie: Someone has to go through an international border crossing in order to reach wherever their travel destination is.
  • Citizenship Marriage: A foreign immigrant marries a local citizen for the purpose of easing the naturalization process.
  • Citywide Evacuation: In a natural or manmade disaster, citizens must leave the city far from dire peril.
  • Ethnic Menial Labor: Poor immigrants are used as a source of cheap labor for local businesses.
  • Foreign Ruling Class: A country's leadership is comprised mostly of settlers originating from another country (as is often the case with dependent territories of colonial empires).
  • Going Native: Immigrants adopting or assimilating into the culture of their new country.
  • Homeworld Evacuation: An entire planet is no longer inhabitable, so its residents have to pack up and leave for other worlds elsewhere in space.
  • Humanity Came from Space: Long ago, humans migrated to Earth from another planet.
  • I Choose to Stay: A character refuses to go back to their old home after the events that happened in their current destination.
  • The Illegal: An illegal immigrant is any foreign citizen who is staying in another country without any legal authorization to do so, which may lead to imprisonment and deportation if they are discovered.
  • An Immigrant's Tale: The story of packing up and leaving for a new country in hopes of a better life, as well as coping with the change.
  • Immigrant Parents: Someone's parents came from another country.
  • Immigrant Patriotism: An immigrant loves their new country, and would proudly receive their naturalized citizenship (or already has).
  • Limey Goes to Hollywood: British actors relocating to America for show business.
  • The Migration: The mass migration of large populations of people to other lands.
  • Mistaken Ethnicity: When someone incorrectly guesses where another person or their immigrant ancestors came from.
    • Mistaken for Foreigner: A native-born citizen (often an ethnic minority descended from immigrants) is mistakenly assumed to be a foreign migrant or traveler who came from abroad.
    • Mistaken Nationality: When someone wrongly assumes or incorrectly guesses which country an immigrant originated from.
  • Naturalized Name: An immigrant changes their name to better fit in with their new country.
  • The Old Country: An immigrant character's (often unspecified) country of origin.
  • Oppressive Immigration Enforcement: Enforcers and implementers of stricter immigration control are presented as bigoted, oppressive, and corrupt.
  • Patriot in Exile: An immigrant remains loyal to their old country despite being exiled.
  • Racial Remnant: The remaining population of an ethnic group decimated by some sort of catastrophe, who are often geographically separated away from their ancestral homeland.
  • "Rediscovering Roots" Trip: A character, often an immigrant (or descendant of immigrants), returns to their ancestral nation of origin in order to rediscover their cultural heritage.
  • Settling the Frontier: Foreign migrants leave their homelands to try and colonize another region that is remote and inhospitable.
  • Starting a New Life: A character makes a fresh start (usually in another location), possibly with a new identity.
  • The Stateless: Sometimes, a migrant doesn't have any citizenship, thus rendering them legally foreign to all countries in the world (including the country where they were born, or whichever native homeland their family originated from).
  • Transplanted Humans: Humans who were plucked from Earth and relocated to another planet somewhere else in space.
  • War Refugees: People whose homelands have been brutally devastated by civil war or foreign invasion, so they have fled for their lives by migrating to safer countries.
  • Worthless Foreign Degree: A highly-educated immigrant is overqualified for the lower-quality jobs that they are only able to get in the new country.