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On Immigration: Understanding open borders

Open borders do not represent anarchy or a step to anarchy, nor do they represent an absence of borders. The previous post in this series on immigration explained those misconceptions. This post offers some basic definitions of open borders, with some concluding reflections.

What Are Open Borders?
As indicated by the collocation "open borders," it is a situation in which few if any restrictions exist on the movement of humans, labor, capital, and goods across borders. An example would be the borders between states in the U.S., or states or provinces or regions in numerous countries. On the international level, the most obvious example might be the Schengen Area of the European Union.

An important point is that even with such open borders, some restrictions exist. Unless the entire world had a universal open borders policy, restrictions will always exist in one direction or another. Furthermore, even with open borders, restrictions will always exist as long as nation-states do. The restrictions may not be on immigration, but rather on goods.

One of the premier advocacy groups for open borders around the world is Wherever you find yourself on the spectrum of immigration policy, the organization provides excellent information both to support open border policies, to represent opponents' arguments thoroughly, and to reply to objections. One blog posting on moderate versus radical open borders explains how definitions and especially policy positions differ, even among those who broadly favor fewer restrictions.

A Few Thoughts on Immigration and Open Borders

  • Immigration is fundamentally good for human society. Some would want to say that only legal immigration is fundamentally good for human society. That is a questionable statement, but even if it were valid, it must be remembered that immigration is immigration - legal vs. illegal is an artificial and at times arbitrary imposition made on immigration by government. Artificial and arbitrary do not translate to bad, but they do indicate that...
  • If immigration is good, then policy should focus on promoting immigration, not on restricting it. It also means that basic values guiding immigration policy should start with community and family, not apparent economic benefits (and less immigration control almost always translates to better economic benefits too).
  • Where immigration restrictions exist, they must depend on valid reasons, not political expediency. After all, in discussing immigration, we are not discussing fundamental moral and ethical values and responsibilities. Immigration in this respect is quite different from issues such as marriage or abortion. Along those lines, we must be able to distinguish between moral laws and pragmatic laws, just and unjust legislation, and necessary versus unnecessary border controls. More on that in the next post.


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Elihu, in Job 32:7, had a good thought: "I thought, 'Age should speak;  advanced years should teach wisdom.'"

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