The United States is a land of immigrants.
But many other countries also welcome new immigrants.
Some people have always sought to leave their homeland for a foreign country in search of opportunity.
So it should come as no surprise that there are hundreds of songs about immigrants.
And they tackle the subject from all different angles and viewpoints.
Keep reading for 23 beautiful songs about refugees, migration and immigration.
Table of Contents
- 1 Songs About Immigration And Refugees
- 1.1 Immigration Man by Graham Nash
- 1.2 Prayer of The Refugee by Rise Against
- 1.3 The Last Refugee by Roger Waters
- 1.4 Look In Their Eyes by David Crosby
- 1.5 Help Is Coming by Crowded House
- 1.6 A Safe Place To Land by Sara Bareilles Ft. John Legend
- 1.7 American Land by Bruce Springsteen
- 1.8 Stranger In Moscow by Michael Jackson
- 1.9 City Of Immigrants by Steve Earle (Ft. Forro in The Dark)
- 1.10 Why We Build The Wall by Anais Mitchell
- 1.11 Clear Isabel by Aaron Watson
- 1.12 Émigré by Alela Diane
- 1.13 Immigration Blues by Chris Rea
- 1.14 Cold War Kids by 1 x 1 (Ft. Wesley Shultz)
- 1.15 Aliens by Coldplay
- 1.16 Immigrants (We Get The Job Done) by The Hamilton MixTape
- 1.17 Living In The Promiseland by Willie Nelson
- 1.18 The Partisan by Leonard Cohen
- 1.19 American Tune by Paul Simon
- 1.20 American Oxygen by Rihanna
- 1.21 Still Will I Love You (Song for The Refugees) by Bethel Music
- 1.22 This Land Is Your Land by Woody Guthrie
- 1.23 Refugee Song by My Scream
- 2 Songs About Migration And Refugees: Final Thoughts
Songs About Immigration And Refugees
We tried to include songs about refugees and immigration from as many different musical genres as possible. As always, please leave a comment below, if you have additional song suggestions.
Immigration Man by Graham Nash
Graham Nash and David Crosby performed Immigration Man, released in 1972 as a single. It went on to peak at number 36 on the Billboard Top 100. Nash found the entire immigration process rather stressful, and he channeled his frustration through this song.
Prayer of The Refugee by Rise Against
This 2009 song describes the challenges faced by refugees. Refugees are usually discriminated against, and Rise Against describes their despair in this song. It also talks about an immigrant trying to make ends meet in America.
The Last Refugee by Roger Waters
Roger Waters wrote and performed this dark and brooding track in 2017 for his aptly named album Is This The Life We Really Want?
The song represents the refugee crisis everywhere and also describes the aftermath of war. In a sense, the song also depicts hope as the singer dreams of the last refugee landing safely.
Look In Their Eyes by David Crosby
David Crosby’s Look in Their Eyes is a song from his 2016 album Lighthouse. It describes the plight of immigrants and refugees seeking asylum in a strange land.
The singer urges us to look into the refugees’ eyes to know their story. Unfortunately, we are too busy to do that and usually miss them when they pass us. The video above is from Crosby’s live performance at Capitol Hill.
Help Is Coming by Crowded House
A news report described Help Is Coming as a “hushed hymn” for all those people who arrived on ships at Ellis Island in America from Europe in search of a better life for their families.
Songwriters Neil Finn, Peter Jones, and Nick Seymour describe Help Is Coming as a refugee song “to evoke the journey made over the years by hundreds of thousands of people fleeing their war-torn homelands.”
A Safe Place To Land by Sara Bareilles Ft. John Legend
Sara Bareilles and John Legend pay a beautiful tribute to immigrants who get separated at South American borders. The song also expresses hope for finding solace in the chaos that comes into the lives of people who have to leave their homes in search of safety and opportunity. This is one of the newer songs about immigration on this list.
American Land by Bruce Springsteen
American Land by Springsteen was inspired by activist Pete Seeger’s 1956 recording of He Lies in the American Land. Bruce Springsteen included American Land in his 2012 album Wrecking Ball.
The song is about a man who leaves his lover and says goodbye to her before setting off for America – the land of opportunity. He mentions that she should join him once he makes it big. In America, you get gold from the rivers, and women are always dressed in satin and silk.
Some people believe that the song’s underlying message is that America has been built on the blood and sweat of immigrants.
Stranger In Moscow by Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson wrote Stranger in Moscow in a Moscow hotel room in 1993 and included it in his 1995 album HIStory. The song describes how alienated and alone the singer felt in Moscow. He is also being hunted by the KGB.
In a sense, it beautifully captures the feelings of depression, isolation, and social anxiety. The singer also calls out to a higher power to help him feel better in this strange place.
City Of Immigrants by Steve Earle (Ft. Forro in The Dark)
Steve Earle wrote City of Immigrants for his 2007 album Washington Square Serenade. The lyrics describe the fact that America is a land of immigrants and that the singer need not go traveling since the entire world comes to him when he opens his doors.
Why We Build The Wall by Anais Mitchell
Anais Mitchell wrote Why We Build The Song for her 2006 album Hadestown. The walls around Hadestown helped keep invasions by neighboring countries at bay which is why all nations build walls. The song went on to have a different meaning when Donald Trump announced his plan to build a border wall between the USA and Mexico.
Clear Isabel by Aaron Watson
In Clear Isabel, Aaron Watson tells the story of a girl named Isabel who comes to America with her father, Mariano. Mariano crossed paths with the Mexican cartel that killed his son. So, to protect Isabel, they crossed into America, where the grass is greener.
This song about immigration has a sad ending, like so many stories of immigrants crossing illegally from Mexico into the United States. Isabel and her husband try to get a green card for Mariano, but it is too late, and he is shot in the back by the sheriff.
Émigré by Alela Diane
Alela’s songs are pure works of art: hauntingly beautiful and sensitive. Émigré’s chorus talks about seabirds flying across the border for a better life and conditions. It also has political undertones, where the sea represents an economic flow that propels people to leave their homes for greater unknowns.
Immigration Blues by Chris Rea
Immigration Blues describes the story of an immigrant who sells his mother’s ring to come to America. Now, as he stands in an endless line, locked in a ghetto, he terribly misses his loved ones. He also describes the indignity he suffers at the hands of the immigration officers.
Cold War Kids by 1 x 1 (Ft. Wesley Shultz)
Singer Nathan Willett said in an interview that Cold War Kids was inspired by migrant children who were separated from their parents at the borders. He also mentioned writing this song during the pandemic, when we were all quarantined, and when staying apart from loved ones was necessary to help the “whole of us”.
Aliens by Coldplay
Coldplay donated the proceeds of ALIENS to rescue migrants in peril at sea. The song highlights the plight of refugees all over the world – how they have to leave their homes in the dead of the night and the subsequent hardships they face after doing so.
Immigrants (We Get The Job Done) by The Hamilton MixTape
This is a six-minute song that aims to highlight the plight of immigrants and also shows their struggles, strength, and resilience. Immigrants also talks about the resentment Americans feel towards immigrants and about their mistreatment.
Living In The Promiseland by Willie Nelson
Performed by Willie Nelson and written by David Lynn Jones, Living in The Promiseland paints an optimistic picture of America and how the nation can be a safe haven for immigrants and refugees.
Willie Nelson is a gifted country singer who beautifully puts raw emotions and feelings into all of his songs. This country ballad is sure to resonate with people, given the times in which we are living.
The Partisan by Leonard Cohen
The Partisan was initially named La Complainte du Partisan and was written by French singer-songwriter, Anna Marly. The song is based on the words of Emmanuel d’Astier de La Vigerie who was the leader of the French Resistance.
It talks about the undying and unyielding spirit of a soldier who refuses to surrender when his country is invaded. Therefore, he crosses the border and changes his name so often that he loses his wife and kids. This song could also have been included in our list of songs about great men.
American Tune by Paul Simon
American singer-songwriter Paul Simon wrote American Tune about the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal that rocked the nation. It was included in his 1973 album, There Goes Rhymin’ Simon.
American Tune depicts the restlessness that Americans felt during the 1970s. The singer also describes being weary and tired to his bones since he is so far away from home.
American Oxygen by Rihanna
Rihanna co-wrote American Oxygen with Candice Pillay, Sam Harris, and Alex Da Kid. The song and its music video both depict how immigrants come to America and can make it big through hard work.
The video depicts Mexicans crossing the Southern border and European immigrants arriving at Ellis Island. It also includes footage of immigrants fighting for civil rights. Rihanna states that this is the “new America and immigrants make up the new America”.
Still Will I Love You (Song for The Refugees) by Bethel Music
Sean Feucht wrote and performed this religious song about loving and helping refugees. In a sense, we are all refugees seeking refuge in God from evil.
Both the New and Old Testaments speak about helping refugees. Unfortunately, the song rubbed many people the wrong way, and Bethel Music’s political stance turned off many listeners.
This Land Is Your Land by Woody Guthrie
In This Land is Your Land, singer Woody Guthrie addresses listeners as if he were talking directly with them. He tells us that the great America is his and theirs. Guthrie was inspired to write this simple-yet-meaningful song after seeing the hardships of poor Americans during the Great Depression.
Guthrie spent his youth traveling across the country, and during his travels, he saw the disparity between the haves and have-nots. He also met with a lot of migrants, farmers, and laid-off workers and chronicled their stories in this meaningful song.
Refugee Song by My Scream
Songwriter Adam Hawatt takes a look at the global refugee crisis through this great song. It is a simple yet elegant track that transcends social, religious, and political boundaries.
Singer A.J. poignantly brings the refugee’s story to the world. The singer says he is a refugee and urges people to hear his scream and help him. The song motivated many people to donate funds to help fight various refugee crises around the globe.
Songs About Migration And Refugees: Final Thoughts
As mentioned, our goal was to include songs about immigration in all possible genres. But there are definitely some genres that have fewer songs on this list, and some that are missing altogether.
If you know any other great songs about migration and refugees, please feel free to let us know in a comment below. We’ll be happy to add any good suggestions to this list, especially ones in genres that are light, or missing completely.