We live in a global society. Our environment is global. Our economy is global. The consequences of government actions (particularly warfare) are global. An enlightened immigration policy must reflect the global nature of our society. The essence of such a policy is very simple: We should have completely open borders.
An open-borders immigration policy would be a radical (but not unprecedented) change from our current unjust and ineffective immigration program. The United States actually had an open immigration policy until 1875, when Congress passed a racist law limiting immigration from China. Moreover, border crossing from Mexico was free until the establishment of the Border Patrol in 1924.
The European Union was established in 1993. Since that time, people from many European countries can travel freely between, and work within, any of the participating countries. Until the global financial crisis of 2007, the European Union prospered largely as a consequence of its open borders policy. In fact, the overall EU unemployment rate shrank by 2 percentage points between 1993 and 2002.
An enlightened immigration policy would include the following provisions: (1) Anyone living in the United States could get citizenship. (2) No one would be barred from citizenship due to undocumented presence, prior deportation, criminal record or conflict with immigration authorities. (3) Visitors to the United States could stay and acquire citizenship if they wish. (4) Travel in all directions from all countries would be permitted. (5) Citizenship in two or more countries would be allowed.
An open borders immigration policy would have many benefits, such as: eliminating deaths at the border, smuggling of humans, and the trade in false documents; decreasing government expenses by jettisoning the immigration and enforcement bureaucracy; increasing tax revenues by enabling immigrants to work legally; facilitating labor organizing thus raising wages and improving working conditions; removing the fear that prevents immigrants from reporting violent crimes; and raising economic productivity in both rich and poor countries.
Open borders might reduce the wages of certain U.S. occupations, but the best remedy for this is international labor organizing rather than closed borders. Such labor organizing could also lessen the huge wage gap that sometimes induces migration between nations. Moreover, cessation of U.S. military interventions abroad (e.g. Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria) would diminish the massive social disruption that generates population movement.
We are currently a long way from an enlightened immigration policy. The Chinese say, “A long march begins with a single step.” Some first steps might include legalizing all undocumented immigrants; opening borders between Mexico, United States, and Canada; renegotiating or eliminating unequal trade agreements like NAFTA; and curtailing the international weapons trade that often destabilizes world affairs. For further information on immigration, see Jane Guskin and David Wilson’s “The Politics of Immigration: Questions and Answers” (Monthly Review Press, 2017).
The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center’s “Peace Train” runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.