[More rants and raves.]
My wife subscribes to New Labor Forum. I like the format of the journal which is a mix of scholarly, activist and cultural material. The cover story of Volume 17 Issue 1 is “Open the Borders: Yes/No” and consists of two articles, one pro by Dan La Botz and the other con by Ana Avendaño. I’m going to focus on the first article as Botz articulates a vision of a borderless world shared by many left-wing activists.
The core of La Botz’ argument is that borders and by extension the nation-state are anachronistic. In this new era of globalized production the only solution is “Open Borders.” Before I address this concept of Open Borders it must be stated that La Botz is simply wrong in his evaluation of borders as “out of date.” Here is La Botz:
Closed borders are out of date, passé. It is a policy based on the defense of a national economic model that has been outmoded for thirty years.
What about national defense? Security concerns are paramount when borders are discussed by policy makers in the United States and abroad, especially after the terrorist attacks in September 11, 2001. What about sovereignty?
First, what is the goal of the Open Borders movement? La Botz notes, “we should reject the inhumane laws that govern borders and migration policy” but eschews what that means precisely. Does that mean that laws governing borders are inhumane or that only certain laws are inhumane and these should be appealed?
Reading further La Botz provides “nine arguments for open borders,” which are more appropriately identified as articulations of La Botz particular ideology rather than supported by well-reasoned arguments. Under the heading “The Humanistic Argument: One Race, One World, ”for example, La Botz claims, “Closing borders violates the ethical principle of our common right to life on this planet” and in his “Historical Argument” he notes, “Historically speaking, it is difficult to justify the legitimacy of the world’s borders.” Botz would be hard pressed to find a historian who agrees with that sentence. Lastly, his “State versus Society Argument” expresses a concern with closed borders augmenting “authoritarian tendencies within our country” which “undermine democracy.”
However, borders are never totally closed in free societies and the United States opens our borders to millions of individuals each year. And most of those individuals are not labor migrants “pushed” from their homelands by transnational corporations. The authors of a 2001 study point out, “Most legal international migrants both to the US and to Europe in recent decades have not been labour migrants but spouses, dependants, relatives, students, [and] asylum claimants…”
[T]he idea of fully open borders is hardly compatible with the principle of the nation state or the coherent identity of its society, the existence of which depends on controlling its membership and its boundaries. The level of migration must be for each society and for its electorate to decide, rather than some uniform international migration order, for social and political reasons even more than economic ones. In this respect it is like any other major measure affecting a society and its well-being. Let those who want open borders open theirs. Others who take a different view can then see what happens (See “Why Borders Can’t be Open,” International Union for the Scientific Study of Population. XXIV General Population Conference, Salvador da Bahia, Brazil Plenary Debate no 4. Friday 24 August 2001.)
I agree with La Botz’ concluding section regarding alliances of unions and other organizations across national boundaries. But I do not share his optimism and affiliation with the Open Borders movement.
As most are internationalists, Open Borders advocates fail to recognize the importance of sovereignty. Many leftists denigrate the concept as belonging to a previous age of nationalism and xenophobia. They would like to see the United States restricted by institutions like the International Criminal Court and the United Nations. They do not want to be citizens of the United States they want to be citizens of the world.
[coming soon, Why Sovereignty Matters]