Immigration in Argentina, can be divided in several major stages:
Spanish colonization starting in the 16th century, integrating the indigenous inhabitants (see Population history of American indigenous peoples).
European immigration in the 19th century, focused on colonization and sponsored by the government (sometimes on lands "freed" of the native inhabitants by the Conquest of the Desert in the last quarter of the century).
The forced introduction of blacks brought from Africa to work as slaves in the colony between the 17th and 19th centuries.
Mostly urban immigration during the era of rapid growth in the late 19th century (from 1880 onwards) and the first half of the 20th century, before and after World War I and also after the Spanish Civil War.
Economic migrants from Korea, China, Central America, Bolivia, Peru, Paraguay, Colombia and from Eastern Europe in the late 20th century and early 21st century.
Since its unification as a country and before, Argentine rulers intended the country to welcome productive immigration, albeit selectively. Article 25 of the 1853 Constitution reads:
The Federal Government will encourage European immigration, and it will not restrict, limit or burden with any taxes the entrance into Argentine territory of foreigners who come with the goal of working the land, improving the industries and teach the sciences and the arts.
The Preamble of the Constitution, more generously, dictates a number of goals (justice, peace, defense, welfare and liberty) that apply "to all men in the world who wish to dwell on Argentine soil". The Constitution incorporates, along with other influences, the thought of Juan Bautista Alberdi, who expressed his opinion on the matter in succinct terms: "to rule is to populate".
The legal and organizational precedents of today's National Migrations Office (Dirección Nacional de Migraciones) can be found in 1825, when Rivadavia created an Immigration Commission. After the Commission was dissolved, the government of Rosas continued to allow immigration. Urquiza, under whose sponsorship the Constitution was drawn, encouraged the establishment of agricultural colonies in the Littoral (western Mesopotamia and north-eastern Pampas).
The first law dealing with immigration policies was Law 817 of Immigration and Colonization, of 1876. The General Immigration Office was created in 1898, together with the Hotel de Inmigrantes (Immigrants' Hotel), in Buenos Aires.
The liberal rulers of the late 19th century saw immigration as the possibility of bringing people from supposedly more civilized, enlightened countries into a sparsely populated land, thus diminishing the influence of aboriginal elements and turning Argentina into a modern society with a dynamic economy. However, immigrants did not only bring their knowledge and skills. In 1902, a Law of Residence (Ley de Residencia) was passed, mandating the expulsion of foreigners who "compromise national security or disturb public order", and in 1910 a Law of Social Defense (Ley de Defensa Social) explicitly named ideologies deemed to have such effects. These laws were a reaction by the ruling elite against imported ideas such as labor unionism, anarchism and other forms of popular organization.
The modern National Migrations Office was created by decree on February 4, 1949 under the Technical Secretariat of the Presidency, in order to deal with the new post-war immigration scenario. New regulations were added to the Office by Law 22439 of 1981 and a decree of 1994.
By Priscila Puerta, Manuel Buceta, Nicolás Pereyra and Josué Ghiso.