We need open borders and we need them now

We need open borders and we need them now

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

LOS ANGELES — As an advocate of “open borders,” I am often asked how I would know if I was in a country if there was not a border. It would be like asking if you are in Ohio or California. There is a sign on the road and you know if you are in Ohio or California. It is the same way in the European Union. You know if you are in France or Spain. The language is one method, but so are the monuments and hotels and restaurants.

My 7th-grade geography teacher, Mr. Dress, pulled down a map (and yes, we had pull-down maps in those days) and said, “God did not make a purple line between Canada and the United States and Mexico and the United States.” These days he would have been in trouble for mentioning God in the classroom, but this was 1963 and it was quite OK to talk about God and the purple line that was on the map.

Now we have a president who wants to build a wall, and a Democratic House of Representatives that wants to pass a budget without the wall funding. I have asked on radio, “If you don’t let immigrants into the U.S., who is going to pick your fruit?” The fact is, immigrants are the ones who do the low-paying jobs in the United States.

We are also a nation of immigrants. My father, who left Poland in 1920, went to the “Cleveland School of Welding” – their motto was “We mend everything but a broken heart.” He had three children and all of us were proud to call ourselves Americans. So, what is wrong with open borders and opening our borders?

I am not alone in my belief that we should have open borders. That would mean I could live in Canada or Mexico too. There is now even a group (and a website) called Open Borders. The pro-wall people cite crime as a reason to make sure there is a wall. The facts do not bear this out.

We know people commit crimes at a greater rate than immigrants if they are citizens. Also, I knew two people who died on 9/11, and have since become close friends with people who knew or were related to other people who died that day. The planes that were used to kill people would not have been stopped by a wall or even a fence with cameras. They still would have died, whether we had open borders or closed borders. There are also some data showing open borders and immigration could contribute to the world’s economy growing. That is a far cry from what we hear about borders making it tight for economies.

This is from Open Borders: “Consider Roberto Beristain, who entered the U.S. illegally from Mexico in 1998 and was deported last year. He was the owner of a restaurant in Indiana which employed 20 American workers and is a husband and father. He apparently never broke a law in the U.S., and the mayor of a town near where he lived in Indiana referred to him as a ‘model resident.’ The mayor wrote about Roberto that ‘…once he was here, in love and raising a family, did the system give him any better option than to do what he did, which was to keep his head down, work extremely hard, put his kids through school, support his wife, break no laws…’ The mayor also noted that many in the community are ‘proud’ to call Roberto a friend.”

So, why are we so focused on borders? The wall makes people vote for keeping people out. Many people loved President Franklin D. Roosevelt, but he was responsible for sending back the MS St. Louis (after which at least 250 people met their deaths at the hands of the Nazis). The ship was sent back in 1939, before the U.S. entered the war.

This is not the first time we have become xenophobic. American citizens of Japanese descent were interred in “camps” during WWII. We know that xenophobia is not just at our borders.

We need to have open borders and we need them now. People should be free to live and work in any country. Are we not Americans who support the poem on the Statue of Liberty? It says:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

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