August 20, 2017

BENITEZ | America, Open Your Borders

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Empathy expands when people decide that some aspects of identity are not as consequential as once thought. Our ability to overcome racism depends on recognizing, in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., the difference between the color of one’s skin and the content of their character. Our ability to overcome sexism depends on recognizing that neither biological sex nor socially-prescribed gender determine one’s ability to care for patients, manage a business or oversee a government. Indeed, human empathy grows each time we recognize a new facet of our identity, once thought significant, as arbitrary.

We should therefore be troubled by the disproportionate importance society continues to assign to something else ultimately inconsequential: where you are “from.” Across the world, nations continue to exclude individuals on the basis of their nationality. We see this not only in the nationalistic backlash against immigration fuelled by the belief that individuals born elsewhere are less deserving of a place in a developed nation that currently defines Western politics, but more fundamentally, in the systematic restrictions placed on incoming migration. Developed nations have always been reluctant to welcome anyone but the most skilled of laborers into their fold, regarding people beyond their borders as admissible insofar as they have something to  offer economically.

Even skilled foreigners hoping to work in the United States can only pray that the annual lottery distributing the limited number of H-1 work visas unfolds in their favor. And if it does, the systematic exclusion doesn’t stop: I, as a foreigner, am not entitled to the same constitutional protections afforded to Americans, in spite of your Declaration of Independence’s confident pronouncement that “all men are created equal.” Along every step of the way, long-standing sovereign mechanisms consistently privilege those who are already comparatively privileged, according to the good fortune of their assigned geography. This is evident across all corners of the globe: in Australia’s inhumane off-shore detention of refugees, in the pro-Brexit desire to purify Britain’s cultural make-up and in the anti-globalist contempt for the offshore relocation of industrial manufacturing.

If it is morally wrong to discriminate against a person for being Black, or a woman — after all, none of us voluntarily chose our “race” or gender — then why do the people of developed nations continue to discriminate against others based on geography? None of us chose the patch of dirt on which we were born, and so it is increasingly arbitrary to assess one’s worthiness to enter, work and exist within a space like the United States using this criteria. You’re not American because you worked the hardest for that claim. You’re American because, to borrow a term frequently used by your own Warren Buffett, you merely won the “ovarian lottery.”

And so, at least philosophically, one is hard-pressed to defend the status quo. For example, if you and another person were in a situation that required the two of you to distribute limited resources between yourselves, neither of you would invoke where you were born as grounds to a superior claim. So, irrespective of whether the distance between your birthplaces is a few miles or a few thousand miles, the principle governing your equal claims to limited resources remains consistent. Even in the event that the other person has resources derived from his own locale, it would be unfair of him to deny you the necessary aid simply for being from a different place as where those, say, bananas are from.

Even self-interested Westerners ought to recognize how economically favorable it is for them to welcome immigrants. Much evidence refutes the stereotype of immigrants as job-stealing slobs, revealing instead a portrait of hard-working strivers eager to carve out an independent existence. Michael Clemens, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, estimates that all eliminating all barriers on international movement would increase increase world GDP by 50 to 150 percent, indicating that such an elimination could potentially double the size of the global economy.

To complement economic concerns, the cultural offerings of immigrant-friendly policies are easily apparent; the benefit of globalization most taken for granted is the broad spectrum of human ingenuity on display in this country’s cosmopolitan centers — whether it be the gift of different cuisines to try, music to listen to or simply people to befriend.

Proponents of stricter immigration policy often cite national security concerns, but such consternation is grossly overstated.  The overwhelming majority who wish to enter the West are eager to become abiding participants in the social contract of liberal democracy, perhaps to an even greater extent than Americans themselves: statistically, an immigrant is less likely to commit a crime than a natural-born counterpart. Fears of terror might justifiably lead to more rigorous scrutiny of incoming migrants, but the principle that recognizes everyone’s equal right to exist in a space still holds, accounting for improved security measures.

In spite of the recent political turmoil, gridlock and posturing of this nation, people of the world continue to migrate to the United States. Yours is a nation founded on Enlightenment ideals: not on a religion, nor an ethnicity, but  the simple notion that those willing to participate in the social contract of a liberal nation are welcome to exercise their liberty. The fact that many Americans claim their birth in America as a justification for their exclusive right to being in America is, at the end of the day, profoundly un-American.

 

Lorenzo Benitez is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. Not a Cop appears alternating Mondays this semester. He can be reached at lbenitez@cornellsun.com.

  • Tom

    A world without borders? No national sovereignty. No unique culture. Combine that with no religion and you have the makings of a best selling song. You also have total chaos.

  • Ezra Tank

    LOL at this young man. I’m sorry but when you live in a country with laws and rules you simply cannot ask us to OPEN OUR BORDERS.

    That’s utter nonsense.

    Yes most developed countries restrict immigration to the best and brightest. AND THAT IS THE VERY REASON they are a developed country.

    Just look around the world at “undeveloped” countries. They are chaos. They usually struggle to provide basic living essentials like drinking water, sewage and an non-corrupt viable economy.

    I’m sorry but if you want to join ANY group in the world be it a new job, a new country or a new group of friends that usually involves standards and rules.

    If you want to come to America we will welcome you with open arms but you must also want to welcome what America requires as well. After all it IS a two way street.

  • Hateful Bigot

    What an article, Lorenzo!

    What inspired your work: Weed or LSD?

  • Hateful Bigot

    “The overwhelming majority who wish to enter the West are eager to become abiding participants in the social contract of liberal democracy”

    Take a look at the banlieus of Paris. You’ll find lots of people eager to become abiding participants in the social contact of Frenchie liberal democracy.

  • Map4Territory

    I agree that American immigration policy needs to be reformed to allow more people and more unskilled workers to come here, but some of your ideas are pretty antithetical to The American Dream and American Values. The American Dream is not and never was that anyone can become successful. It is that if you work hard your children will be more successful than you and onwards for generations. So we don’t view the economic well-being we are born into as a result of an ovarian lottery, but rather the result of the sacrifices our ancestors have made. Certainly this doesn’t provide rationale to keep out immigrants and the current state of socio-economic mobility should be challenged. However, basing policy on the notion that any success we have is a privilege that we are not entitled to would be against American values. It’s a value that can be challenged, but if you are a foreigner who disagrees with that value maybe you shouldn’t be trying so hard to come here.