Here’s a concept: Let’s have open borders

Here’s a concept: Let’s have open borders

By Ellen Ratner   
Published
U.S. border patrol vehicle along the U.S.-Mexican border (File photo, U.S Customs and Border Protection)

LOS ANGELES — Call me a liberal loony, but I believe in open borders. There is no reason why an American can’t live and operate in Mexico or even Canada except – as my 7th-grade geography teacher, Mr. Dress said – there is a line between the three countries. He also said, “God did not make a purple line (then seen on the pull-down maps that were ubiquitous in our classrooms) between the U.S. and Mexico and between the U.S. and Canada.”

While President Trump says the Democrats want open borders, there are actually very few people who think that open borders make sense. If there had been open borders during the anti-Obama days, people would not have cared if he was born in Hawaii or Kenya. That provision of our Constitution was made over 200 years ago when where you were born mattered. It does not have the same effect now in the 21st century.

Canada and the U.S. have the longest border, and there are some on the internet that say they remember camping on both sides of the border when they were kids. Now, you have to choose sides. If our worries are smugglers, as President Trump says, then they will just get smarter and move people through Canada to the U.S. and get people into our country that way.

According to an article in the Atlantic, in April 2013 an open-borders advocacy group had a theory they espoused: “[B]order restrictions of almost any kind are wrong … they are antithetical to the fundamental human right of self-determination. To see their point, imagine an American in rural Mississippi being told she cannot move to New York City to seek a better career. That is exactly what the U.S. and other developed nations are telling the millions of foreigners who are denied access to their rich labor markets.”

Cultural tests and tests of language fluency are common. In Spain, there is a cultural test in Spanish given to people who want citizenship. There is also a case made by George Mason University economist Bryan Caplan. He says, “If immigrants hurt American workers, we can charge immigrants higher taxes or admission fees, and use the revenue to compensate the losers. … If immigrants burden American taxpayers, we can make immigrants ineligible for benefits. If immigrants hurt American culture, we can impose tests of English fluency and cultural literacy. If immigrants hurt American liberty, we can refuse to give them the right to vote. Whatever your complaint happens to be, immigration restrictions are a needlessly draconian remedy.”

So, what if we allowed open borders but had some rules about language fluency and other cultural factors? Would that be so bad? What if Mexico and Central American and South American cities allowed people to come and open up businesses there as long as they spoke the language and could pass a cultural test so they understood some of the history of the country?

The language issue is not unprecedented in the U.S. When California first adopted its state constitution in 1849, in Section 21 there was a law that said all laws had to be published in English and Spanish. There was another constitution in 1879 and it did not include that provision. However, the California Gold Rush, which historically went from 1848 through 1855, was during the bilingual years; so there is definitely a history there.

On Friday, the Hill published an op-ed by Brian Lonergan on open borders. He said it’s what people who are against the Trump administration want: “Americans do not want a two-tiered justice system which gives non-citizens more rights than themselves. They are sick of politicians who value the interests of foreigners over U.S. citizens. It has been an accepted part of the social contract in America that those who commit criminal acts face criminal penalties, including incarceration. U.S. citizens who break the law are sent to prison every day with little or no weight given to the fact that they may have children. Now we are told that non-citizens who break our laws should get special treatment because they have children. That is unfair – to Americans.”

The thing is, seeking asylum is not breaking the law. It is part of our law. Let’s have open borders and then the kind of argument above is moot.

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