Man is an animal suspended in webs of significance that he himself has spun...

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Right to Invite

A very intriguing post came up on Open Borders last week.  I follow them regularly and comment occasionally because the premise the site is built around, the idea that we should tear down most, if not all the walls, and let people move where they like, is one that we should all take very seriously.
This website is dedicated to making the case for open borders. The term “open borders” is used to describe a world where there is a strong presumption in favor of allowing people to migrate and where this presumption can be overridden or curtailed only under exceptional circumstances. 
To help you reflect the site has gathered together arguments for and against - from the moral and practical standpoints to some of the more theoretical  discussions.

Are Open Borders possible in today's world?  As someone who closely follows the debates around immigration on two continents (North America and Europe) I'd have to say "no".  Way too much fear on the part of both governments and natives.  The idea of control is still the order of the day and the perception is that migration is a leaky faucet that must be first closed tightly with a wrench before it's slowly opened and closed to achieve perfect flows.  What makes many despair  (but gives me a great deal of hope) is that the bureaucracies and politicians who try to manage immigration are really lousy plumbers.  With a mindset that sees chaos (unrestricted illegal immigration) on one side and command and control on the other, states opt for control with the public either cheering them on or complaining bitterly because these measures are never entirely successful.

Nathan Smith recognizes that the world is probably not ready for open borders.  With that in mind he turned his attention toward what he thinks could be achieved.  The post is called Halfway Measures to Open Borders -  concrete proposals that are something short of a perfect world but are incremental and plausible in today's context.  Some are even, I think, already being implemented in some countries.

Take the "right to invite," for example.  Smith rightly points out that specific groups like California farmers in the U.S. already lobby government  for the right to bring guest workers into the country.  Business in France does the same and has even been given its own site, Pour la promotion de l'immigration professionnelle, and government agents available to help them hire migrants.

What if people (not just industry) asked for and got a "right to invite"?  That might be a bridge too far for many but something very close to it already exists in the Canadian Provincial Nominee Program.  This program allows local governments, responding to local requirements, to seek out and invite the migrants they need and want.  As Andrew Griffith points out in the comments section, this system is not perfect but it is a nice compromise and makes perfect sense.  It is almost impossible for a national government to make immigration laws that are a perfect fit for all regions within a country - the needs of cities in France versus those of the countryside or the human capital requirements of states, provinces and city-states in North America.  Making the "right to invite" more local means less bureaucracy, a faster process and a better fit between migrants and the regions that need them.

Another proposal of Smith's is to have more international migration agreements between nations.
For example, what if the US and the EU made an agreement whereby Europeans could migrate to the US and work freely, and Americans could do the same in Europe. I would anticipate large gains on both sides, as Americans would benefit culturally from access to Europe’s treasury of ancient, beautiful cities, while Europeans would benefit economically from access to America’s relatively more prosperous and dynamic economy. 
That would make a lot of sense though I think he underestimates how many Americans are coming to Europe for economic opportunities.  America is indeed relatively prosperous but only for some.  In many cases an American migrant can actually do quite well in the EU.  Even where that is not true the benefit of migrating may be to his or her offspring because public education is better funded and social mobility much higher in EU countries.   Times have indeed changed.  Another idea I've heard is to extend NAFTA to make regional mobility even easier for the citizens of Canada, the US and Mexico.

Such agreements already do exist in the world.  The EU, for example, is one great experiment in open borders with free movement guaranteed (and even encouraged) between the 27 member-states.  Agreements between European countries like Spain and the Ibero-American countries are another.  Quebec has agreements with France and vice versa.  I agree that more agreements would be a good thing and I just have to ask why the U.S. has no such partnerships with other nations.  Correct me if I'm wrong but it appears that my U.S. citizenship does not afford me easy access to any other nation or region which, in a globalized world, makes it much less valuable than an EU passport which would give me access to 27+.

In some way, the most favored Americans (or Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders) in a globalized world are those that are the product of very recent immigration.  Either they continue to hold passports from their home countries or they are the recent direct descendants of those who do and so they can benefit from other countries' jus sanguinis citizenship laws to gain access to multiple job markets.  These days the poor individual with only one citizenship will find it much harder.

Something to think about.  Naturally my views on this are colored by the fact that I am a emigrant/immigrant and have experienced firsthand the immigration policies of other countries.  It would be horribly inconsistent, not to mention intellectually dishonest, of me to do other than support 100%  "the people who move around."  I like Open Border's position which calls for a presumption in favor of allowing people to go where they wish and are welcome.  A great deal of time, energy and money could be saved if people were allowed to sort themselves and choose where they wish to live and to which government they prefer to swear allegiance.  We are far from that but Nathan Smith's proposals would bring us a great deal closer.  Just think of them as "training wheels" for the real thing.

1 comment:

Rosy the Riveter said...

Hello from Italy where I'm preaching all sorts of things about the US in 2 universities. You've been very prolific these days Victoria! My experience here is a sort of open borders thing, since it's really been very easy to be accepted in the university system - in fact better than in "mandarin France". Funny how the same borders can open on one side - but not on the other! Take care!