Dare to Dream of a World Without Borders By Gary Younge August 14, 2018
It’s not naïve to hope that what does not seem possible in the foreseeable future is nonetheless necessary and worth fighting for. As a descendant of slaves and the child of an immigrant working-class single parent family, I owe my life today to those outrageous and brave enough to fight for a society that they insisted upon even when they could not imagine it ever materialising.
If politics is the art of the possible, then radicalism must be the capacity to imagine new possibilities. ‘A map of the world that does not include utopia is not worth even glancing at,’ wrote Oscar Wilde. ‘For it leaves out the one country at which humanity is always landing. And when humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail.’
The map of my utopian world has no borders. No border guards, no barbed wire, no passport control, no walls, fences or barriers. The world, I think, would be a better place without them. I believe in the free movement of people. As a principle, I think we should all be able to roam the planet and live, love and create where we wish. I’m about to make the case for why that’s desirable and what we would need to be and do to get there, but first I want to throw down the gauntlet to those who oppose the notion of open borders. What place do Yarl’s Wood detention centre, or the ‘jungle’ in Calais, or the vessels in the Mediterranean, have in your utopias? Why did you dream of them?
Make no mistake, a world with open borders would demand a radical transformation of much of what we have now. It would demand a rethinking not only of immigration, but our policies on trade and war, the environment, health and welfare, which would in turn necessitate a re-evaluation of our history, of our understanding of ourselves as a species and as a nation.
This is partly personal for me. My parents were born and raised in Barbados, a small island in the Caribbean caught in the crosswinds of colonial ties and post-war labour scarcity. Along with my parents, nine of my aunts and uncles left Barbados for lives in Britain, the US and Canada. I have cousins scattered across the globe. Borders are no friends to diasporas. They privilege form-filling over family.
Borders exist by definition to separate one group of people from another, and the primary two issues then become which ‘other’ that would be, and on what basis they should be separated. As such, borders are both arbitrary and definite. Arbitrary because they could be drawn anywhere, and they often move. Countries are, in the words of Benedict Anderson, imagined communities. Nation states as we commonly understand them are a relatively new idea.
A Home Office report in 2007 about who gets stopped for extra questioning when coming into Britain and revealed that non-white South Africans are ten times more likely to be pulled aside and non-white Canadians nine times more likely than their white countrymen. Moreover, even though the mean income of a black Canadian is almost double that of a white South African, a black Canadian is still four times more likely to be stopped. To anyone who seeks some other explanation, I point you to the faces of those who have been caught in the Windrush scandal and ask you: is that a coincidence? This is not a glitch in the system, this is the system.
This has been relatively recently compounded by a further contradiction that even as borders have become tougher for people, they have all but been lifted for capital. Money can travel the globe, virtually without restriction in search of regulations that are weaker and labour that is cheaper. And when it does, it often displaces people, sucking investment and resources from one place at the flick of a switch, shutting down factories and shifting them to the other side of the globe, or introducing automation that makes some professions obsolete. But nobody asks a machine or money when it’s crossing a border whether it will put someone out of work. Those who find their lives turned upside down by the free movement of capital are often prevented from moving country and looking for work. People should at least have the same rights as machines.
The rich can buy themselves citizenship in around 20 countries, cash down. Meanwhile, desperate people are turned away at borders all the time. It is a fact rarely stated, but generally acknowledged and accepted, that the global poor should not be allowed to travel. Indeed, one of the more intriguing aspects of hearing the new home secretary Sajid Javid’s life story, held up as an uplifting example, is the detail that his father came to the country with just £1 in his pocket in 1961. That means that were his own father were to arrive in the country now, Javid would not let him in.
And he is okay with that. It is absolutely right, he said three years ago, that today we should have an immigration policy based more on skills. That excludes most of the world, and so the border stands as an ultimate point of confrontation in the broader dystopia we have made possible. I think that poor people should be able to travel. Not least because if they couldn’t, I wouldn’t be here.
It would be useful to deal pre-emptively with some of the more obvious retorts regarding open borders. The first relates to security. If we open the borders we will compromise our security, goes the claim. Well, the overwhelming majority of people who have committed terrorist attacks here were either born here or are here legally. That shouldn’t surprise us. So long as Britain has had colonial or imperial interests elsewhere, it has had a terrorist problem. We have been growing our own terrorists for years.
For the better part of a century, we mostly were engaging with Ireland. The security that came after that conflict emerged not as a result of tighter borders or more stringent policy, but from a political settlement. Similarly, the source of our terror problem is not the result of stringent or lax borders, but a thoroughly misguided foreign policy in which we either commit acts of state terror ourselves, as in Iraq, or profit from the weaponising of others to do it, as in Yemen.
Nation states are a relatively recent concept; migration is as old as humanity. Borders seek to regulate and restrict that basic human custom for the distinct purpose of excluding some and privileging others
It would also help if we addressed the problem with the issue of refugees. First of all, we don’t take anything like our fair share of refugees even compared with other European countries, let alone the rest of the world. But it is particularly galling because a significant number of refugees are fleeing wars that we have created and states that we have failed, regimes we have subsidised and regions we have disabled. If we don’t want people to come here, then maybe we could start by not going there and messing it up.
Similarly with our trade policies, which punish poorer countries by preventing them from developing as we did with nationalised industries protected by subsidies and thereby confine them to the volatile markets of raw materials and the whims of multinationals.
These are often countries that Britain and other western nations actively and intentionally underdeveloped during colonialism. There we have a historical responsibility. Much of the migration in the world at present, it should be pointed out, is not voluntary but forced, by extreme poverty, natural disasters and wars. It would be a better world if people only moved if they wanted to and if they did not have to move to eat. Environmental policies, particularly on climate change, arms controls and responsible foreign and trade policies, would assist in allowing many people to stay where they would rather be – at home.
Put another way, those who insist that we cannot afford to take in the world’s misery should make more of a concerted effort to ensure that we are not helping to create the world’s misery.
That brings us on to the welfare state, the health service and so on, which is a tougher call. How do we sustain, with national taxes, these things that we value if they are then free to the world?
Clearly, if we didn’t contribute so much to global poverty this would be less of an issue. And we shouldn’t forget the huge health inequalities within nations. A black man in Washington DC has a lower life expectancy than a man on the Gaza strip.
What’s more, just because you have no national borders doesn’t mean that there can’t be national rights and obligations. The pragmatist in me says we have free movement in the European Union but I’m still not eligible for an Italian pension. So ring-fencing a system whereby those who contribute can benefit should not be beyond our ken
The idealist in me, though, asks the question: do you want to live in a world where healthcare is determined by an accident of birth? And if your answer is yes, is that because the accident occurred in your favour?
The thing that all these objections have in common, and I know that there are more, is fear. Fear of others, that others might take what is ours, might pollute what we share. That fear is a potent force. It can drive people into the arms of fascists, racists, bigots and bullies.
We have seen recently where that fear gets us. What happened with the Windrush generation was not a mistake – it was the whole point of the ‘hostile environment’ policy. People are treated as illegal unless they can prove otherwise.
Not content with a physical border on the water’s edge and at the airport frontier, it revealed that we now have borders that are invisible and omnipresent, dividing communities and generations at whim and will. The border now represents not a physical space but a political one that can be reproduced without warning in places of learning and healing. At any moment almost anyone – your boss, doctor, child’s headteacher, or landlord – can become a border guard. Indeed, they may be legally obliged to do so, and on the basis of their judgement you may be denied livelihood, family, home and health. Is that the world we want?
Immigrants are not the problem, borders are. We don’t know what the future holds, but if we don’t fight for it, it won’t exist. Activism is the key. Bad things happen when good people stay at home.
A World of Free Movement Would Be $78 Trillion Richer By The Economist 6/25/18
Yes, it would be disruptive. But the potential gains are so vast that objectors could be bribed to let it happen
If something seems too good to be true, it probably is not actually true. But occasionally it is. Michael Clemens, an economist at the Centre for Global Development, an anti-poverty think-tank in Washington, DC, argues that there are “trillion-dollar bills on the sidewalk”. One seemingly simple policy could make the world twice as rich as it is: open borders.
Workers become far more productive when they move from a poor country to a rich one. Suddenly, they can join a labour market with ample capital, efficient firms and a predictable legal system. Those who used to scrape a living from the soil with a wooden hoe start driving tractors. Those who once made mud bricks by hand start working with cranes and mechanical diggers. Those who cut hair find richer clients who tip better.
“Labour is the world’s most valuable commodity—yet thanks to strict immigration regulation, most of it goes to waste,” argue Bryan Caplan and Vipul Naik in “A radical case for open borders”. Mexican labourers who migrate to the United States can expect to earn 150% more. Unskilled Nigerians make 1,000% more.
SolutionsFixing immigration starts with this easy step WP by Richard V. Reeves and Amy Hu, 8/20/18
G iven the anti-immigrant rhetoric dominating public dialogue, you might be forgiven for not knowing that the majority of immigrants to the United States are here legally , or that about 1 in 7 U.S. residents are immigrants — a percentage three times as high as in 1970. As things stand, 1 in 5 adults see immigration as “the most important problem facing the nation.”
It is not clear why, in itself, more immigration should be seen as a problem. For all the hysteria over MS-13, immigrants commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans. A quarter of new businesses are started by immigrants, and immigrant children grasp educational opportunities firmly.
Among children born in Los Angeles to poorly educated Chinese immigrants, for example, 70 percent complete a four-year college degree. And while fewer Americans are moving around the country, immigrants are on the move, relocating from traditional immigrant cities — New York, Los Angeles — to other towns and cities in search of a better future.
Entrepreneurial, mobile, aspirational: New Americans are arguably true Americans. (Now is perhaps a good time for the authors of this article to confess — no, not confess, to boast loudly — that we are immigrants ourselves.)
The immigration problem is one of perception rather than reality. It represents a failure not of our system but of our imagination.
Trump supporters who back the president’s push for a border wall are most likely to live in areas with limited racial diversity, including fewer Hispanic neighbors, according to a large study co-written by Gallup senior economist Jonathan Rothwell. As Rothwell says: “Limited interactions with racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, and college graduates may contribute to prejudicial stereotypes, political and cultural misunderstandings, and a general fear of rejection and not-belonging.”
Absent personal interaction with many immigrants, many white Americans are susceptible to anti-immigrant rhetoric. Anxious about their own prospects and looking for people to blame for their plight, immigrants have been presented, by President Trump and his allies, as easy targets.
The immigration problem is one of fear rather than fact. So what can be done to address it? As Rothwell shows, more integrated areas seem to generate more positive views of immigration. Greater understanding is created, in a phrase borrowed from the late philosopher Gerald Cohen, “in the thick of daily life.” But we can hardly integrate every neighborhood, even if immigrants themselves were willing to move.
Here is a modest proposal to try to improve understanding of and empathy for immigrants: Require that every American student attends a citizenship ceremony before graduating from high school.
These ceremonies are deeply, colorfully and unapologetically patriotic. Most participants and observers cannot help but be moved by the sight of people from around the world — despite an increasingly long and arduous application process to become a citizen — pledging their allegiance to the flag, singing the national anthem and, often tearfully, receiving their naturalization certificate.
Federal courts encourage not only the attendance but also the active participation of school classes, for instance by serving as the color guard, presenting new citizens with flags or leading the Pledge of Allegiance. However, we should go beyond encouragement. Students learn about the history of the United States as an immigrant nation. It would be useful for them to see that it remains one. States, counties and school districts should, therefore, add attendance at a citizenship ceremony to the requirements for high school graduation. Those citizens who are immigrants themselves would, of course, have already met the requirement.
There are some practical considerations. Each year, 7,200 naturalization ceremonies, each welcoming an average of 100 new citizens to our nation, take place, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Given current student enrollment, this would mean an average of about 500 students attending each ceremony, in addition to the family members and friends who often attend. Many ceremonies would need to be moved to larger venues, as some already have, perhaps to the auditorium of the high school itself, or to a local theater or other civic space. They could become community events, rather than just family ones.
In preparation for attending a ceremony, high school classes could be invited to take the citizenship test that must be passed before naturalization. The overwhelming majority of applicants for citizenship pass the test. But just 60 percent of native-born Americans do, according to some surveys. (To be fair, the questions are drawn from a fixed list that is known in advance, so a little study would get most people through.)
There is much that needs to be fixed about our immigration system. But the biggest fix we need is in the way many Americans view immigrants themselves. A first step would be to ensure that young Americans witness the magical moment of becoming a citizen.
Mexican BorderBORDER, US-MEXICO
The Peculiar Tale of How Immigration Became Illegal by Sara Campos. A Book Review of Savava Chomsky's new book, Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal. Alternet, June 12, 2014. A new book examines current immigration policy through a historical lens and with an eye toward improving immigrant rights. "argues that illegal status is an invented and convenient concept, a strategy designed to provide cheap labor. She argues that with the abolition of slavery, the United States needed a source of cheap labor. After the Jim Crow era, overt discrimination on the basis of race was challenged and became less acceptable. Over time, immigration status took its place. In the same period, work became redefined as a privilege that people without legal immigration status were barred from performing. Since undocumented people nevertheless work, the legal impairment surrounding their labor renders them vulnerable and exploitable."
"We suspect you won't be hearing much about historical and economic forces that drive migration. Or the truly Byzantine aspects of our truly Byzantine law... the law "allocates the same number of green cards per year for Mexico as it does for every other country, from the smallest to the largest, from Liechtenstein to China: 25,620"
"In other words, if a US citizen petitions for a green card for her sister in Mexico, she has a 40-year wait" ("Ah-ha!" Texas Observer, June 30, 2006: 3).
EthicsThis Will Change How You See Immigration by Jim Wallace... a 45-minute video made to convince Christians to reconsider the immigration issue. 5/30/2014
email from Kamala Harris, Senator
Eight immigrants signed the Declaration of Independence
Remember that immigrants don’t just belong in America, immigrants have built America.
Chinese laborers worked on the railroads that linked this country together.
The son of a Kenyan immigrant became our 44th President.
Remember that imperfect though we may be, our greatest strength has always been our ability and willingness to fix those imperfections and make our country a more just and equal place.
Quotes"Consider two points often made in debates about refugees and immigrants. Writers and politicians, in this country and in Western Europe, have long complained that immigrants and refugees do not conform to the rules and norms of liberal democracy. Arabs and Africans, we are often informed, do not accept the rights of women; Muslims are more loyal to their religion than to the state (something said of Europe's Jews not so long ago); immigrants carry, along with their luggage and food, the conflicts and violence of their countries of origin to their new homes. Since 9/11 writers and politicians have grown increasingly apprehensive about the security threat posed by Muslims and Arabs. Worried about insufficient assimilation and potential terrorism, many commentators now believe that Western countries need to reconsider their open immigration policies...
"What is it about immigrants and refugees that frees us from the stricture against guilt by association and the duty to treat individuals as individuals?" (Corey Robin. "Strangers in the Land." The Nation, April 10, 2006: 28-33).
"Ayaan Hirsi Ali... In 2002, while still working as a researcher for the then conventionally multiculturalist Dutch Labour party, she publicly described the Prophet as a pervert (for taking a child as one of his wives) and as a tyrant. She took over where the eccentric populist Pim Fortuyn had left off, arguing that Islam was a backward religion, that it subordinated women and stifled art...
"It was towards the end of last year, however, that she became the source of a national crisis in the Netherlands. An 11-minute film, written by Hirsi Ali and directed by Van Gogh, was broadcast on television. It featured the stories of four woemn pleading with God for release from domestic, social and marital bondage. What many Muslims found intolerable were the images of naked female bodiees, on which had been painted verses from the Qur'an authorising the subordination of women...
"On November 2, while cycling in Amsterdam, Theo van Gogh was shot eight times by a young, bearded man wearing a long jellaba...
"In the aftermath of the murder, the already fraught issues of Dutch multiculturalism, and of community relations with the country's 900,000-strong Muslim population, became incendiary. Mohammed Bouyeri, the man arrested for his killing, had been in many respects, a model of integration: he was of Moroccan descent, but Dutch-born and Dutch-educated, and this cast him in the role of the enemy within...
"It is possible that, as Mak puts it, the Netherlands is "a small, provincial country", unable to bear the realities of globalization, which has used a nasty murder as an excuse to conflate issues of Islam, immigration and security. But the country's problems are far from imaginary. Van Gogh and Hirsi Ali are not the only public figures to have been targeted with death threats. Amsterdam's Jewish mayor, Job Cohen -- despite meticulous bridge-building with Muslim communities -- also requires bodyguards, as does his Moroccan-born deputy, Ahmed Aboutaleb.
"In many ways the Netherlands is a crucible case within Europe, because the issues surrounding immigration are so stark. For example, the economic argument deployed by both leftwing multiculturalists and free-market conservatives -- that immigration revives aging populations, provides labour resources and generates entrepreneurial activity -- simply does not apply in the Netherlands. There has been no overall economic benefit to population change since unskilled guest workers were invited to the Netherlands in the early 1970s. According to Paul Scheffer, a leading critic of multiculturalism and professor of urban sociology at Amsterdam university, up to 60% of first generation Turkish and Moroccan populations are unemployed. "It's a huge failure," he says, "everyone can see that."
"Within a generation the Netherlands has swung from blithe, open-door immigration to anxious protectionism... By 2001, 46% of the population of Amsterdam consisted of first- or second-generation immigrants. It is in the Netherlands that European multiculturalism most dramatically flourished and died...
"Add to this the fact that nearly 1 million of the Netherlands' 1.7 million immigrants are Muslim, and it is not hard to see how issues of Islam and migration have become entangled.
"Which is why Hirsi Ali's full-frontal attacks on Islam generate such acute discomfort. She argues that there is less a problem with migration in general than with its Muslim component in particular, and that she should know, because she is herself a Muslim migrant. Hopes for a moderate Islam are only meaningful, she argues, it if is possible to chip away the theological brickwork--constructed, she believes, on a foundation of femaile oppression--which permeates the structure of the religion. But Islam, she says, is unable to endure criticism or change, and is essentially at odds with European values...
Influenced by events of September 11, however, she began to publish articles arguing that Islam was not capable of integrating into a society that was itself not very good at integration. Furthermore, she concluded, if you looked into the condition of women in Muslim communities you found an intractable problem, one which liberals and multiculturalists refused to address...
""I am not against migration. It is simply pragmatic to restrict migration, while at the same time encouraging integration and fighting discrimination. I support the idea of the free movement of goods, people, money and jobs in Europe. But that will only work if universal human rights are also adopted by the newcomers. And if they are not, then you run the risk of losing what you have here, and what other people want when they come here, which is freedom"...
""We Muslims are brought up with the idea that there is just one relationship possible with God--submission. That's Islam: submission to the will of Allah. I want to bring about a different relationship, in which you say, 'Dear God, I would like to have a conversation with you.' Instead of submission, you get a relationship of dialogue. Let's just assume it's possible"" (Alexander Linklater. "Danger woman." Guardian Weekly, May 27-June 2, 2005: 17-18).
"The world's poor are forced to migrate to wherever capital takes up residence. It's a matter of finding work. In Europe, companies are anxious to recruit cheaper immigrant workers in order to cut their labor costs and remain competitive in world markets. Immigrant groups will often take menial jobs that the native population refuses to do... Europeans worry that immigrant groups will grab the few available... jobs...
"There is also the concern that immigrant cultures will strain an already overburdened welfare system...
"Lastly, native cultural communities claim that poor immigrants pose a real threat to public safety. It is true that a disproportionate number of immigrants commit crimes and end up in prison... The main reason for the high crime rate is the high unemployment rate among foreigners living in the EU countries...
"Europeans, by and large, feel inundated and overwhelmed by the immigrant crush...
"The immigration backlash portends serious consequences for the long-term well-being of Europe itself. The sad truth is that without a massive increase in non-EU immigration in the next several decades, Europe iw likely to wither and die...
"Europe's overall population is expected to fall by a startling 13 percent between 2000 and 2050... At the heart of the problem is... Europe has the lowest fertility rate of any region of the world...
"An aging population is likely to result in Europe losing its competitive edge in the world economy... By 2006, more people will be retiring from the French workforce than will be entering it...
"Fewer younger workers paying for the retirement of an increasing number of older workers...
"The only way out, short of a miraculous rise in fertility... is to open the floodgates to millions of new immigrants...
"I would suggest that the success or failure of the emergent European Dream hinges, to a great extent, on how the current generation of Europeans address the issues of fertility and immigration" (Jeremy Rifkin. The European Dream. pp. 247-257)...
"The Muslim influence is particularly challenging because Islam has traditionally viewed itself as a universal brotherhood of the faith. One's allegiance to Islam is supposed to supercede allegiances to any particular culture, place, or political institution" (261). [Muslim refuse to blend in. This is of particular concern because of their backward views on human rights.]...
"Immigrants may have to pass a French language test if they want long-term residence rights in the country, a minister said last week...
""At present there is no language requirement, and I believe one is necessary. What interests us is successful immigration--and behind language lies employment, accommodation, everything."
"Few EU states require immigrants to master their language. But in Germany applicants for permanent residence must pass a language and general culture test, and Austria and Denmark have introduced similar measures" ("Immigrants face language tests." Guardian Weekly, Aug.4, 2005: 9).
Colby Glass, MLIS