Answering an appeal for open borders – such as the one made by Philippe Legrain in this issue of Ode (see Let them in!) – goes against human nature. We are genetically programmed to see people we don’t know as threats to our well-being. That mistrust remains even when to accept strangers would actually work to our benefit – as is the case with the immigration policies in developed countries.
To those with global visions, this fear of foreigners is morally reprehensible. By closing the borders – or only opening them a crack – we deny other world citizens the right to freedom of movement and self-advancement. That’s unfair for two reasons. One: Westerners have the freedom to travel the planet freely. Two: The blessings of the Western way of life are now part of the global consciousness, displayed via satellite and Internet for the world to see.
So they come. And they keep coming. It’s not a sinister invasion; just people seeking better lives. They know there’s work to be done here and that they can earn money to send home, where it’s worth a great deal more.
This situation could be a boon for the West. Immigrants offer us the opportunity to maintain a high standard of living while expanding the workforce as a solution to the problem of our aging populations. Meanwhile, current efforts to keep immigrants from crossing the borders continue to fail. Border patrols cost a lot in both tax money and human lives. The issue is not that border police kill so many immigrants – though it happens – but that this police presence forces migrants to seek increasingly dangerous routes. How long will we continue to look the other way given that strict immigration policies in Europe and the United States send so many people to their deaths at the same time as making human trafficking a lucrative trade that draws unscrupulous people?
Until border policies are relaxed, it’s important to regulate migrant workers both more efficiently and more compassionately. Europe has already taken important steps to do so. For instance, in February, the European Commission took steps toward opening “reception centres” in Africa and Eastern Europe to process those who wish to move to Western Europe, as well as introducing a “blue card,” the European equivalent of the American green card, which will allow illegal aliens to work legally.
Will open borders lead to mass migration? Unlikely. Back in 2004, Great Britain, Ireland and Sweden opened their borders to the 75 million inhabitants of Eastern Europe, including Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. Finland, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain have since followed their example. Are these countries being flooded by desperate Eastern Europeans? No, the move has primarily prompted illegal aliens to register in their adopted countries. Immigration has not increased since the borders were opened. It only makes sense: The vast majority of people don’t want to leave home. That too is human nature.