Should borders be open?

The question of immigration in the modern world is a fact of life. It is deemed to be a problem because the world that we live in is a world of states and these states guard the right to determine who may settle within their borders. There are many reasons for opposition to open borders. These include security factor for example, the overarching fear of terrorism, secondly in the name of preserving a certain cultural integrity. Thirdly, as immigrants impose certain costs on society, the states wish to avoid these extra burdens i.e. if the state is a welfare state, they will have to fend for immigrants as well.

Thinkers such a Chandran Kukathas are in favour of open borders. He gave two reasons for the same. The first reason is the principle of freedom which talks about freedoms such as freedom of movement freedom of selling their labour, the freedom to associate with others and so forth. The second is the principle of humanity which talks about how most people live in poverty and therefore need to move to make their lives better. According to this principle, there must be very good reasons if one is to justify turning the disadvantaged away.

An important debate is between nationality and immigration. National interests are given greater importance than that of outsiders. Large immigration may change a society’s character is what defenders of closed borders are worried about. Outsiders who don’t share the same values will not be able to help sustain the same economy, culture or social institutions. There are also fears that bonds of social solidarity may break down.

While addressing the aspect of Security, the proponents of open borders suggest that security from terrorism, security of political system from foreign threats are all legitimate issues but instead of restricting legal immigration what should be done is that illegal immigration should be controlled. Meanwhile the advocates of closed borders do not agree with such a proposition. David Miller argues that people certainly have the interest in being able to migrate internationally but it cannot be a human right. While the right to exit is important as it enables movement from current state of residence, it does not entail an obligation of other nations to let such individuals in. He suggested the idea of entry applications where states can choose whom to accept rather than it being forced on them.

For Miller, the policy of open migration is not a solution because the very poor will anyhow not have the resources that are needed to move to a richer country. If open migration leads to doctors, engineers and other professionals moving from underdeveloped to economically developed countries, the country of origin will be deprived of vital skills. So equalizing opportunity for the few will diminish opportunity for the rest. Thus, improving life conditions at ground level becomes important.

Many underlie the importance of admitting all long-term immigrants to full and equal citizenship in the receiving society. There need to be active policies to help ensure immigrants become a part of the political life of the community.

Categories: Social Issues, World

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