Opinion | The Case for Open Borders

The republicans fear monger to their racially motivated base that Democrats are pushing for open borders when the truth is that there really isn’t much talk of open borders at all. It seems as though we have bought into the right-wing idea of open borders as unthinkable, but I want to break the taboo and challenge our current view. Our borders work to stop workers, tourists, and refugees from coming into the U.S. and are pretty easy to navigate for terrorists & criminals. The reason for this, of course, is because terrorists and criminals typically have the money and organizational support to get visas, hire drug mules, or even dig vast networks of tunnels, they go largely unphased by the bureaucracy we place between nations. Regardless, the last thing we would want is for criminals to be deported, just to come back to do what they were doing in the first place. Understanding this, it seems clear that deportation doesn’t make sense under any circumstances.

When our country was founded the idea of closed borders, passports, and visas was seen as nothing but a relic of feudalism, invented by royalty to tie workers to the land and force them into low wages by preventing their mobility. Quite literally, they could not move away to a place where they might receive a higher wage. This was a good deal for every feudal state that participated, because they could make agreements among each other to enforce their borders and send workers back to their homeland, allowing all of the feudal states to depress wages without having to worry about market competition. Today our borders serve this exact same role. 

It is no coincidence that our border began to close at the same time we started entering large international trade agreements. Trade agreements like NAFTA, are in essence open border agreements for large corporations and financiers, they are designed to allow capital owners free movement between countries so they can earn a profit untaxed and unburdened by bureaucracy. These same financiers, however, have turned around to push for stricter immigration laws. They fought to take away migrant worker protections, they fought to create tests, fees, and complex legal proceedings around even temporary work. They did this for the same reason the feudal lords invented this system in the first place: if workers in Mexico could come to the U.S. for higher wages, manufacturers in Mexico would have to pay higher wages to keep their workers. 

Natural market forces should bring wages up as people move to find better opportunity, but the legal creation of an unbalanced playing field has put workers at a severe disadvantage. We live in a system where corporations enjoy essentially open borders, while working people are increasingly tied to their nation of birth. 

So what would an open border look like? There would still be the usual process in airports of going through customs to make sure people aren’t bringing things here that they shouldn’t (e.g. invasive species of plants, illegal products, etc.), but we wouldn’t require visas, nor would we ever deport anyone, and anything criminal would be handled by local law enforcement or the FBI. Workers would be able to get jobs here and they would be able to get temporary tax-IDs to pay into social security like everyone else. All in all, it would simply mean a lot less paperwork for everyone, that is, not to mention the fact that this would undoubtedly make wages rise, as large corporations would no longer be able to leverage low wages abroad as a means to depress wages locally in the U.S. 

Benjamin CarolloComment