Minor Thoughts from me to you

Immigration and Nationhood

The second question Jenna raised is the question of national borders.

We must have controlled borders in our nation to be a nation. We must have rules and regulations on whom can enter to be an autonomous United States of America. ... Is there any nation in this world that has completely open borders? I believe not. To do this would completely degenerate the underlying fabric of our nation, that which ties us together.

What is the underlying fabric of our nation? What is it that ties us together? I would argue that it is a common ideal. The idea that all men are equal under the law. The idea that anyone can become anything that they want. The idea that status and prestige are not linked to who your family is or what job your parents had, but to your own achievements, character, and efforts. America is more than just land with a certain outline -- it is an idea that has inspired millions around the globe.

Maybe there aren't any nations in the world with completely open borders. That's hardly a compelling argument against the very idea of a nation with completely open borders. Before 1776, had there ever been a nation that offered representative democracy to everyone? America has been unique throughout its entire history. Let's not fall into the trap of trying to make America more like other nations or arguing that America should follow the example of other nations. We should be providing the example for everyone else to follow.

Why would an open borders policy completely degenerate the underlying fabric of our nation? Are you worried that those who would enter the country wouldn't believe in the American ideals of social equality, equal justice under the law, and unlimited opportunity? Those are the very ideas that have drawn millions of immigrants to America. The vast majority of American immigrants came because they were unable to enjoy the "blessings of liberty" in their native lands. Our immigrants have tended to hold the American ideal in higher regard than most Americans do.

Finally, why must we have rules and regulations on whom can enter? And why would these rules, or the lack of them, affect our autonomy? Autonomy is completely separate from the concept of borders. Autonomy is freedom from external control. As long as America's laws are created by America's citizens, America will remain an autonomous nation. In the final result, borders have little to do with how we govern ourselves. Many people that are inside of America's borders are not allowed to vote -- children, felons, the insane, etc. Many outside of America's borders are allowed to vote -- the military, those vacationing on election day, those living overseas at the request of their employers, etc.

Borders delineate the area over which a nation's laws extend. If you live inside of those imaginary lines, you follow one set of laws. If you live outside of those imaginary lines, you follow another set of laws. I would like to think that we can enforce America's laws inside of America's borders without needing to control who lives on which side of the border.

Next, Jenna brought up the issue of citizenship.

Immigration clearly has ties to economics, which is where Joe sees an issue. However, immigration first has ties to our nationhood, and our system of laws, and our definition of citizen. And we must respect that.

Being a citizen means being a member of a political community -- having the right to vote and a voice in making a nation's laws. Given voter turnout over the last several decades, it would seem that many of America's citizens don't think citizenship is anything special.

Citizenship is a separate issue from borders, involving the question of who can vote and where they can vote. It's true that many precincts are subject to voter fraud. This isn't an argument for kicking out immigrants -- it's an argument for creating an election system that actually works. I'm all for requiring positive identification before allowing someone to vote. After all, if you can't be bothered to get a State ID, how committed to citizenship can you possibly be? That goes for both immigrants and for native-born Americans.

We must make a clear distinction between people who live in the United States and people who are allowed to affect the future and direction of the United States. Learning America's history, learning America's language, learning America's culture and ideas must be prerequisites for becoming an American citizen. That is the source of America's common ties and social fabric. As long as we restrict citizenship to those who are committed to American ideals, I don't fear immigration.

This entry was tagged. Immigration Policy