Greece’s trap

by niamh on April 24, 2013

Greece is at the hard end of another European policy problem, related to austerity, but this time to do with immigration, and it’s turning into a serious human rights and humanitarian crisis. According to Europe’s border control agency Frontex, 93% of migrants to Europe came through eastern and central Mediterranean routes in 2011.With the tightening of the patrolling of Spanish and Italian access routes, most of these arrived first in Greece, with legal rights under the European Convention of Human Rights to seek asylum status there. Greece doesn’t have the resources to provide adequate social services, and the justice system is grossly inadequate to deal with the demands put on it. This means that large numbers of people are cast adrift in Greece in a legal limbo and with no resources. They are then at the mercy not only of highly repressive policing but of the fascist organization Golden Dawn, whose growing influence is now also starting to contaminate the political discourse of other political parties. A new internet crowd-released film, Into the Fire, documents the human face on what’s going on.

This is not just a story about Greece, but about European policy more generally. Under what is known as the Dublin regulation, people can only claim asylum in the EU country in which they first arrive. It means that if anyone manages to move on to another country, their claim to asylum need not be heard in that country, but they can be summarily deported back to the country in which they first arrived. This was supposed to be a burden-sharing measure to cut out parallel asylum claims in multiple jurisdictions. But in effect, because of the way people arrive in Europe, it corrals the EU’s asylum-seekers into the southern European countries, and increasingly concentrates it in Greece. A 2011 decision by the European Court of Human Rights found that, unlike other EU member states, Greece was not able to vindicate people’s rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, and that deportations back there are not defensible. But as shown in the documentary Dublin’s Trap: another side of the Greek crisis, these rights are hard to access and the implications extend to very few people. And securing ’Fortress Europe’ is taking an even greater toll on human lives:

…at least 18,567 people have died since 1988 along the european borders. Among them 8,695 were reported to be missing in the sea. The majority of them, 13,733 people, lost their life trying to cross the Mediterranean sea and the Atlantic Ocean towards Europe. And 2011 was the worst year ever, considering that during the year at least 2,352 people have died at the gates of Europe.

There are lots of questions about other European countries’ ways of dealing with asylum seekers and refugees. Ireland’s citizenship laws were changed in 2004 to deter possible claimants; people are left for unconscionably long periods living in ‘direct provision’ accommodation; and the rate of successful application is very low indeed. But the scale of the humanitarian and human rights issues building up in Greece is something else again. And while many northern European policy-makers may well be silently grateful that the issue of rising refugee pressures (most recently from Syria) is kept out of their country, the fillip it gives to Golden Dawn, the third-largest political grouping in Greece in recent polls, should be a cause for deep alarm right across Europe.

{ 136 comments }

1

derrida derider 04.24.13 at 8:54 am

You wonder why the southern Eurpean countries signed up to the Dublin regulation – it must have been obvious who was then going to have to deal with all the asylum claims.

2

Ronan(rf) 04.24.13 at 9:19 am

Was the Dublin regulation set up specifically to limit asylum claims in northern Europe? Or am I being simplisitic and conspiratorial?

3

Ronan(rf) 04.24.13 at 9:27 am

Or to be clearer, not set up *only* to limit asylum claims in northern Europe .. but done so in the full knowledge that the changes would put most of the burden on southern Europe

4

niamh 04.24.13 at 9:36 am

No, I don’t think so. The first iteration was in 1990 when Germany and other countries with borders with Eastern Europe were probably the most exposed in this way. Unintended consequences rather than conspiracy theory.

5

Lurker 04.24.13 at 10:14 am

We must also remember that the EU burden-sharing measures include the provisions whereby member states accept refugees from another member state, if that member state receives a particularly large influx of actual refugees.

The problem here is that most migrants trying to cross borders into Greece and other Southern member states are not bona fide refugees but coming for better life and economic opportunities. They can, and should be deported to their countries of origin after a fair and impartial hearing to determine their refugee status. The problem is that Greece, Italy and Spain are incapable of doing this.

And personally, I do not have very much compassion for people who die while trying to break our law. If they want a residence permit, that can be obtained in the nearest embassy of a Schengen member state. Accepting the entry of people who come illegally into EU is terribly unegalitarian, as it benefits mostly young and healthy males, not those in the greatest need of protection.

6

ajay 04.24.13 at 10:23 am

4: I was wondering that too… thanks.

7

mollymooly 04.24.13 at 10:46 am

So the EU’s response to migrants’ jurisdiction-shopping is reverse jurisdiction-shopping.

Refugee processing is one of those areas where centrality rather than subsidiarity is the obvious way to go; but there are no votes in it. Maybe if the EU hands out lots of cash to Greece, à la Australia–Nauru.

8

niamh 04.24.13 at 10:48 am

@5 Actually people have lots of rights even before their legal status is determined.
And public funds for repatriation are now very scarce in some countries, when the legal decision goes agains the applicant.
But I would be far less complacent about the criteria that distinguish between asylum seekers and economic migrants, when so many are in flight from terrible regimes or conflicts or dire poverty. I would draw a different inference from the observation that only young and strong people can make it to safety. It seems to me that this implies the need for a much more generous regime governing entry to Europe, combined with much more active international commitment to peace-making and capacity-building.

9

Lurker 04.24.13 at 11:41 am

niamh,

I completely agree with you: even a person who crosses borders without authorisation has all basic rights, including social and economic rights, that the constitutions of our various countries give to every person. The right for permanent residence is not one of these. Still, a migrant has the right for shelter, food, healthcare, education, etc, as long as they are in our jurisdiction. Thus, for example, I do not condone the Greek maltreatment of asylum-seekers.

Second, if a person is not given legal residence in a member state, the state has an obligation to deport him/her. It is unconscionable to leave a person on the street without the benefits of the legal residence. If no funds exist for repatriation (by force, if necessary), the state must grant residence permit. Tertium non datur.

On the whole, I also agree with you on the point that we must have a flexible legal immigration policy. But anyhow, it is clear that the situation on the Mediterranean will continue as such for decades. There is no way we can afford to give legal permanent residence for every Asian and African who wishes to live here. It would mean increasing the population of the EU to ca. 700-900 million people.

10

Tony Lynch 04.24.13 at 12:22 pm

You may Lurk, but can I stay with you a while?

11

Glen Tomkins 04.24.13 at 12:34 pm

Short circuit

Step back a bit, and I think you could rephrase the dilemma presented here as the concern that Europe’s racist immigration policy might just result in the rise to power of a racist party in Greece. If racists weren’t already in power in Europe, would it have this problem?

The actual conflict here seems to be between nice polite racists and ugly in-your-face racists. Sounds like the intraparty fight among Republicans here in the States. Spoiler alert — the in-your-face crowd wins.

12

Mao Cheng Ji 04.24.13 at 12:58 pm

“Step back a bit, and I think you could rephrase the dilemma presented here as the concern that Europe’s racist immigration policy might just result in the rise to power of a racist party in Greece.”

What is the dilemma, and what would a non-racist immigration policy look like?

13

ajay 04.24.13 at 1:17 pm

Racism is about treating people differently on the basis of race. Europe has a non-racist immigration policy. A white Brazilian (for example) doesn’t get fast-tracked while his black compatriots are kicked out.

14

Lurker 04.24.13 at 1:24 pm

Mr Tomkins is mostly wrong in attributing European immigration policy to racism. Our immigration policy is selfish and ethnically-centered, but it is not driven by racist arguments.

The question is not about the race, it is about money and the standard of living. There are about 1 billion people in Africa, and a further one billion people in Middle East and Southern Asia. If given a chance, perhaps 300-400 million of them would move to European Union, which has some 500 million inhabitants.

This would not lead to a corresponding relative growth of the economy, so it would result in the weakening of the median standard of living. Most importantly, it would dramatically lower the income level of the poorest Europeans. Because I symphatize much more with my compatriots than foreigners, I cannot support unrestricted immigration.

Second, I would say that the weak immigration enforcement regimes present in Southern member states are the strongest driving force for human smuggling. These countries have vibrant labour market for the paperless, and repatriation is not automatic by any means. Cracking down on the paperless labour and their employers (e.g. Spanish farmers) would dramatically decrease the rate of human smuggling into the Union, but it is not in the interests of the moneyed classes of these member states.

15

Lurker 04.24.13 at 2:40 pm

Mao Cheng Ji,

Mr. Tomkins does have at least half a point. In many EU member states, the immigration policy does have ethnic preferences, but these are nationalist, not racist policies. Most typically, children and grand children of former emigrants get a simplified procedure for a residence permit. In addition, some nations grant or have granted the members of their dominant ethnicity a simplified entry to the country. (E.g. Germany grants Russian Germans a right-of-return, Finland gives a similar benefit for persons with “Finnish” nationality in their internal passports.)

16

Anderson 04.24.13 at 3:02 pm

Greece shouldn’t have joined the EU. Shouldn’t have been invited to join the EU. (Judt’s sardonic comments in “Postwar” look prescient.) Greece should bail, default, go back on its own currency, and start picking up the pieces. Including closing its borders to further immigrants if that’s what it takes.

[/wild-assed-armchair-opinionation]

17

Ronan(rf) 04.24.13 at 3:15 pm

The idea that Europes immigration policies can exist in a vacuum, unaffected by historic racism, domestic political concerns, implicit assumptions about non Western countries etc seems unlikely..that doesn’t mean they are necessarily ‘racist’, but they certainly are affected by racism to some degree

18

Ronan(rf) 04.24.13 at 3:34 pm

“The question is not about the race, it is about money and the standard of living. There are about 1 billion people in Africa, and a further one billion people in Middle East and Southern Asia. If given a chance, perhaps 300-400 million of them would move to European Union, which has some 500 million inhabitants.

This would not lead to a corresponding relative growth of the economy, so it would result in the weakening of the median standard of living. Most importantly, it would dramatically lower the income level of the poorest Europeans. Because I symphatize much more with my compatriots than foreigners, I cannot support unrestricted immigration.”

The only thing you’re missing here is evidence, for the potential numbers migrating, estimated growth and the affect on domestic wages

19

Ronan(rf) 04.24.13 at 3:38 pm

“Greece should bail, default, go back on its own currency, and start picking up the pieces. Including closing its borders to further immigrants if that’s what it takes.”

And then we can kick Greek immigrants out of the rest of the EU!

20

Mao Cheng Ji 04.24.13 at 4:04 pm

Lurker, 15, hmm, I’m not sure I can give you that half-point. “Children and grand children of former emigrants” doesn’t sound exactly like ethnic preference: an ethnic Chinese whose grandparent was a German citizen will not be rejected. It’s something else, a sort of extension of the jus sanguinis principle. And the Russian Germans are a special case; the group recently persecuted for their German ethnicity, etc.

21

ajay 04.24.13 at 4:08 pm

The only thing you’re missing here is evidence, for the potential numbers migrating, estimated growth and the affect on domestic wages

Here’s some: 26% of North Africans wanted to migrate permanently to another country in 2010 (ie before the Arab Spring started). Of those, 20% wanted to go to France, 8% to Italy and 6% to Spain. So the number migrating to Europe, if its borders were opened, is about 18% of the total population of the region – roughly 36 million people from North Africa alone. Ten million of them would end up in France.

http://www.gallup.com/poll/147344/one-four-north-africa-desired-migrate-unrest.aspx

17% of them wanted to go to Saudi Arabia! which sort of makes me feel that they haven’t thought the process through very hard. Yes, I’d love to be a poor Maghrebi migrant in Saudi Arabia. I’m sure I’d be treated just fine.

22

niamh 04.24.13 at 5:02 pm

These films focus on the human consequences of what’s happened already as a consequence of European policies. A friend says:

I often think of the immigrants around the port (of my home town). The situation there is even more striking, because the people are not dispersed as they are in Athens. Sometimes, they spend years outside the port…and are often the target of Golden Dawn thugs. As for ‘legal rights’, they are deprived of them even dead. Visiting the cemetery on various occasions, it is interesting to see how and where they bury the ones that die of hardship, disease or injury. No names on the graves, just Afghan 1, Afgan 2, 3 etc.

23

Glen Tomkins 04.24.13 at 5:04 pm

I don’t recognize a difference among nationalism, ethnicism and racism in the matter of restrictive immigration policies. No doubt nationalism has other dimensions, such as the question of democratic self-governance vs rule by foreign elites, where it is often non-pathological. But when we keep damn furriners out because they aren’t as good as us, and we don’t trust them to be fellow citizens, that’s just racism, and going along with calling it nationalistic feeling or somesuch euphemism, is simply being nice and polite to racists.

A non-racist immigration policy would consist of no immigration policy. That’s the immigration policy regime under which all of my immigrant forebears entered the US. There’s quite enough private racism, nationalism and ethnicism, not to mention the practical difficulties a stanger would experience even if everyone in the host nation bent over backwards to extend the hand of friendship, to form a sufficient barrier to any nation being overrun with immigrants. We don’t need official, public policy, barriers to keep immigration within reasonable bounds.

We now accept as natural and inevitable that a nation have some sort of immigration policy, but for a nation to have an industrial policy is some sort of offense against the free market natural order of things. Money, foreign or not, must categorically be free to flow where it will and wreak whatever good or ill upon us it wishes, but the flow of human beings must absolutely be micromanaged by the authorities. There is but one god, Capital, and we humans are merely its humble slaves.

24

Ronan(rf) 04.24.13 at 5:11 pm

“Here’s some: 26% of North Africans wanted to migrate permanently to another country in 2010″

Ah yeah I don’t disagree that all things being equal, if you went from city to city throughout the world offering free plane tickets, accomodation and jobs you could probably drum up 500 million people..what Lurker is responding too is the much more limited immigration that Greece is dealing with, and mentioning the two together (the world as it is, and the world as it could be in your worst nightmare) is a sleight of hand

25

Chris Bertram 04.24.13 at 5:31 pm

Lurker simply presupposes that states have the moral right to exclude would be migrants but provides no argument whatsoever for this right to exclude. Without such an argument, drivel about caring for compatriots more than foreigners doesn’t establish anything. Moreover, claims about the millions of people who would move if given the chance are merely evidence free assertions (what people say in opinion surveys counts for nothing). I’d add that the distinction between ethnically-driven and racist policies is an utterly bogus one. I’m getting a strong whiff of racist troll here.

26

Glen Tomkins 04.24.13 at 5:38 pm

@14
“The question is not about the race, it is about money and the standard of living. There are about 1 billion people in Africa, and a further one billion people in Middle East and Southern Asia. If given a chance, perhaps 300-400 million of them would move to European Union, which has some 500 million inhabitants.”

Ever tried living in a foreign country? As an indigent, bringing with you little or no money, and trying to just get by, forget about thriving, in a country where you don’t know the language and culture well, if at all? Think it wouldn’t be even harder if you were the sort of person most in need of economic opportunity, someone with little education? If you came from a culture in which people tend to rely on extended family, and you have to leave that extended family back in the home country?

What do the official, public policy, barriers to immigration have that even compares to those barriers as disincentives? The whole debate about “immigration policy” is not required by real world exigencies. A Europe or a US with no official barriers would vary little from the present day situation in terms of total numbers who immigrate, because they would still be “protected” by non-official barriers.

The people in Africa or Asia willing to even think about giving the daunting task of immigratrion a try, number a lot less than your hundreds of millions. And in the case of the ones who are up to it, any host nation should be thankful for the addition to its citizenry of such an elite. In my experience in the US, they’re on average several cuts above the run of native born.

27

Chris Bertram 04.24.13 at 5:38 pm

I’d add that when someone says in the face of 18,567 deaths that “I do not have very much compassion for people who die while trying to break our law”, my belief that I’m probably dealing with a racist troll is reinforced.

28

MPAVictoria 04.24.13 at 5:46 pm

“We now accept as natural and inevitable that a nation have some sort of immigration policy, but for a nation to have an industrial policy is some sort of offense against the free market natural order of things. Money, foreign or not, must categorically be free to flow where it will and wreak whatever good or ill upon us it wishes, but the flow of human beings must absolutely be micromanaged by the authorities. There is but one god, Capital, and we humans are merely its humble slaves.”

Well to be fair some of us support both…

29

MPAVictoria 04.24.13 at 5:58 pm

“Moreover, claims about the millions of people who would move if given the chance are merely evidence free assertions (what people say in opinion surveys counts for nothing).”

Okay but where is the evidence that they would stay put? As the one calling for a radical change, the elimination of a nation state’s right to control its borders, should you be the one who has to provide evidence?

30

Lurker 04.24.13 at 6:09 pm

Lurker simply presupposes that states have the moral right to exclude would be migrants but provides no argument whatsoever for this right to exclude.
The democratic state is the expression of the will of its citizens. Naturally, the citizenry is composed of people who have been thrown together by an accident of history, and have formed their common identity in the process of ethnogenesis, but still, the world is composed of nation-states and will be, for the foreseeable future. The fact that laws are adopted through a democratic process gives the moral justification for all law in a democratic state.

Going further, and accepting the brotherhood of all human beings, there is no moral right to exclude persons. Such right is based solely on the might of the state: the physical possibility of doing it, and it can only be justified with national self-interest. It is impossible to maintain a welfare state, with generous provisions to citizens and legal residents alike, if there are no checks on immigration. Because I like, as a social democrat, the welfare state, I support immigration only when it is necessary for the national economy, or based on strong humanitarian reasons (refugee quotas for international burden-sharing, family unifications etc.).

Mr. Tomkins, whose forebears entered the US during a time of free immigration, forgets very nicely that such free immigration resulted in great distress for the immigrants, and allowed the capitalists to suppress the wages to and below the sustenance level, just as happens now in the agricultural sector of Spain. We can have a welfare state and strong labour unions but not under the conditions of free immigration.

And for Chris: If a person wishes to immigrate, there is a process for it. A person who enters country illegally shows disregard for the democratically adopted laws of the country where they would establish their lives in. It is not something I would greatly value in a would-be citizen.

31

Trader Joe 04.24.13 at 6:15 pm

@14 Lurker writes:

“The question is not about the race, it is about money and the standard of living. There are about 1 billion people in Africa, and a further one billion people in Middle East and Southern Asia. If given a chance, perhaps 300-400 million of them would move to European Union, which has some 500 million inhabitants.
This would not lead to a corresponding relative growth of the economy, so it would result in the weakening of the median standard of living. Most importantly, it would dramatically lower the income level of the poorest Europeans. Because I symphatize much more with my compatriots than foreigners, I cannot support unrestricted immigration.
Second, I would say that the weak immigration enforcement regimes present in Southern member states are the strongest driving force for human smuggling. These countries have vibrant labour market for the paperless, and repatriation is not automatic by any means. Cracking down on the paperless labour and their employers (e.g. Spanish farmers) would dramatically decrease the rate of human smuggling into the Union, but it is not in the interests of the moneyed classes of these member states.”

Transformed slightly by Gov. Perry and Sheriff Arpai:

“The question is not about the race, it is about money and the standard of living. There are about 100 million people in Mexico, and a further 100 million people in Central America. If given a chance, perhaps 20-30 million of them would move to Texas, which has some 30 million inhabitants.

This would not lead to a corresponding relative growth of the economy, so it would result in the weakening of the median standard of living. Most importantly, it would dramatically lower the income level of the poorest Texans. Because I symphatize much more with my compatriots than foreigners, I cannot support unrestricted immigration.

Second, I would say that the weak immigration enforcement regimes present in California are the strongest driving force for human smuggling. That state has vibrant labour market for the paperless, and repatriation is not automatic by any means. Cracking down on the paperless labour and their employers (e.g. Lettuce farmers) would dramatically decrease the rate of human smuggling into the U.S., but it is not in the interests of the moneyed classes of these member states.”

Sure reads a lot more racist when you say it like that….

32

Glen Tomkins 04.24.13 at 6:18 pm

“Well to be fair some of us support both…”

…and thereby escape whatever rhetorical force lies in pointing out the inconsistency of supporting the weaker one and not the other, stronger one.

Supporting public policy oversight of the flow of both money and people is at least reasonable (and to some extent inevitable, as there are money flow implications to letting workers flow freely across borders). What I find unreasonable is swallowing the camel of categorically free trade while straining at the gnat of open borders. The movement of individuals can much, much more obviously be allowed to regulate itself than the movement of money can.

33

Ronan(rf) 04.24.13 at 6:20 pm

“Because I like, as a social democrat, the welfare state, I support immigration only when it is necessary for the national economy”

But you’ve not offered any definition of “necessary for the national economy” or evidence for a specific amount of immigration to meet that definition

“Mr. Tomkins, whose forebears entered the US during a time of free immigration, forgets very nicely that such free immigration resulted in great distress for the immigrants, and allowed the capitalists to suppress the wages to and below the sustenance level”

Was there really ‘free’ immigration?
And was it really immigration that allowed capitalists ‘suppress the wages to and below the sustenance level’?
Large scale immigration also coincides with the development and maintenance of the welfare state, the rise of unions etc why is it only responsible for negative social consequences ? (perhaps Mexican immigration is repsonsible for Obamacare?!)

This:

“forgets very nicely that such free immigration resulted in great distress for the immigrants”

Is some high quality concern trolling

34

Mao Cheng Ji 04.24.13 at 6:23 pm

Glen, in your 23 you acknowledge the tension between your rejection of any immigration control and the right to self-determination. This makes your accusations of racism gratuitous, imo. There is a contradiction that you need to address, and saying that “democratic self-governance … is often non-pathological” is not enough.

35

Lurker 04.24.13 at 6:35 pm

But you’ve not offered any definition of “necessary for the national economy” or evidence for a specific amount of immigration to meet that definition
I would define it: “necessary for the national economy” means that no unemployed citizen or legal resident with the necessary qualifications applied for the job, when the job opening was published in major newspaper, with a wage offer corresponding the median wage for the job. Or a similar, formal determination of the unavailability of work force by a competent domestic authority, after consulting the labour unions of the industry in question.

And I would join Mr. Mao in his observation. The comments of Mr. Tomkins makes are such that come easily from a member of a dominant culture, such as the US main stream. You can be sure that no amount of immigration can wipe out your way of life. As a citizen of a much smaller nation, I am acutely aware of the fact that our numbers are much more easily diluted by migration, and my small native language endangered.

36

Ronan(rf) 04.24.13 at 6:42 pm

This is a pretty fair take (i think) on the general positions vis a vis immigration, complete with links

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/01/29/five-things-economists-know-about-immigration/

I think you’re overdoing it a little, imo

as an addendum your definition of ‘necessary for the national economy’ as:

” means that no unemployed citizen or legal resident with the necessary qualifications applied for the job, when the job opening was published in major newspaper, with a wage offer corresponding the median wage for the job. Or a similar, formal determination of the unavailability of work force by a competent domestic authority, after consulting the labour unions of the industry in question.”

Seems infeasible as a basis for policy

37

Ronan(rf) 04.24.13 at 6:45 pm

“As a citizen of a much smaller nation, I am acutely aware of the fact that our numbers are much more easily diluted by migration, and my small native language endangered.”

I come from a nation of 4 million which had open borders with Eastern Europe during a decade long boom, and yet we survived! and when the economy fell apart people left! (including the locals.. )

38

christian_h 04.24.13 at 6:50 pm

We have evidence about numbers of potential immigrants. Every time a new member joins the European union, politicians in Germany, the UK etc. claim that this will result in millions of people moving to their country. The actual numbers of migrants are invariably much lower than the scaremongering numbers thus suggested. So I can confidently predict that hundreds of millions of people are not waiting to move to Europe (how – walk?) the day borders are opened (as in my opinion they should).

39

MPAVictoria 04.24.13 at 6:59 pm

“I would define it: “necessary for the national economy” means that no unemployed citizen or legal resident with the necessary qualifications applied for the job, when the job opening was published in major newspaper, with a wage offer corresponding the median wage for the job. Or a similar, formal determination of the unavailability of work force by a competent domestic authority, after consulting the labour unions of the industry in question.”

I want to subscribe to your newsletter.

40

Ronan(rf) 04.24.13 at 7:12 pm

What about native people who cant read? Or afford a newspaper?

41

hix 04.24.13 at 7:14 pm

Eastern European countries are comperatively rich and get EU subsidies. The poorest two still have no unlimited access to the German labour market.

42

Ronan(rf) 04.24.13 at 7:18 pm

Lurker

From what I can make out online you have twice as many people emigrating to Sweden as you do entering the bloody country, so are we closing the Finnish border with Sweden here as well?

43

Stephen 04.24.13 at 7:46 pm

Chris Bertram @25: “Lurker simply presupposes that states have the moral right to exclude would be migrants but provides no argument whatsoever for this right to exclude.”

Well now, that’s a profound and subtle argument you’re moving into.

A thoroughgoing anarchist would say: states have no right to exclude would-be immigrants, because states have no right to do anything at all. I suspect you and I would both disagree with that.

If we are agreed that states do have a right to forbid some things (and I’m not sure what the difference between “right” and “moral right” is here), then the question becomes: is forbidding (some kinds of) immigration one of the things states have a right to do?

Here I would distinguish between having a right to do something, and being wise to do it. I do not doubt that Congress had a right to enact the 18th Amendment, but in my opinion it was very foolish to do so.

To take it further: a state may have a right to do something to which I am passionately opposed. The states of Virginia and Scotland had a right to make slavery legal, Henry V’s Parliament had a right to enact that heretics be burned alive in public.

If you argue they had no such rights (or moral rights), you are in effect saying “states have a right to make laws I approve of, but no right to make laws I do not approve of”. That is all very well if Chris Bertram is universally acknowledged as infallibly correct: which may not be the case.

So when it comes to states excluding immigrants, I think you have to make the argument, not that they have no rights to do so, but that it is in your opinion foolish or wicked of them to do so. We have not seen your arguments: I am open to persuasion.

44

Omega Centauri 04.24.13 at 7:51 pm

Doesn’t this boil down to the natural tendency of our species (and of many othe species observed in nature) of territoriality, versus the human activity on constructing versus following the consequences of a philosophy? We tend to define territories, and to distinquish between our own, members of T, and others members of notT. Our tendency is, if we think there is something special about our own territory, to imagine how easily we could be overwhelmed if we don’t defend our borders. So we form rules, and enforcement mechanisms (the pack may attack and possibly kill a lone wolf that wonders into its territory), to maintain whatever it is that we think is special about our little corner of the world.

Now translate this into mass politics. It is easy to make the case (as Lurker does), that without strong enforcement, we will be overwhelmed. I’m willing to bet, that few of the electorate will make a careful study of the probability that the claimed threat will actually materialize. Those few who let philosophy or science be their guide and master are a small minority indeed. Policy will come to resemble Lurker’s views whether we like it or not. Now, we have been able to make some inroads. We can usually come to a mutual agreement with other territories resembling our own involving some sort of reciprocity. “I’ll accept immigrants from your territory, and you will accept a similar number from ours”. To go strongly beyond near reciprocity amonst near equals is a tough political sell.

45

MPAVictoria 04.24.13 at 8:06 pm

“Policy will come to resemble Lurker’s views whether we like it or not.”

Really? What country is doing this:
“I would define it: “necessary for the national economy” means that no unemployed citizen or legal resident with the necessary qualifications applied for the job, when the job opening was published in major newspaper, with a wage offer corresponding the median wage for the job. Or a similar, formal determination of the unavailability of work force by a competent domestic authority, after consulting the labour unions of the industry in question.”

46

Ronan(rf) 04.24.13 at 8:21 pm

Arizona?

47

MPAVictoria 04.24.13 at 8:29 pm

“Arizona?”
*Not sure if serious….

48

Ronan(rf) 04.24.13 at 8:33 pm

The little I know about it, the Arizona model seems to be the diluted down, compromise of Lurkers position

49

Ronan(rf) 04.24.13 at 8:39 pm

..which is to say, I am serious. Lurkers position is the equivelant of no immigration. Which is fine, but then that reality has to be owned (taking into consideration you wont get the benefits of immigration, ehivh are substantial )

50

marthe raymond 04.24.13 at 8:51 pm

Just a few quick ones:

1. Immigration in most cases in this time is the direct result of the south being pillaged by the north. Stop whining and suck it up. That’s what you told us to do–as you scalped us and reduced our population by almost 97%. Karma.

2. Greece is slightly off from that model. It’s the case of a poor country (especially after the conversion of the dracma to the euro which was supposed to be a fixed rate–hah!) being victimized by big banks (especially Goldman Sachs) and by its own corrupt leaders. When I was there in May of 2008, there was a new corruption scandal on t.v. daily. At one point the PM or president or whatever that fool was passing as said they would be saved because Hugo Chávez would pay them a visit and make deals. What: oil for olive oil? And because Greeks have been at the bottom of the totem pole/food chain in Europe, they have used immigrants, especially Albanians, as scapegoats. They must make a revolution or resigned themselves to slavery–with no Spartacus in sight.

3. Europe’s austerity programs are doomed to failure. Most of Latin America experienced the results of those programs since the early 80s–they are programs to sink economies and produce more poor folks. If that’s Europe’s goal, it is on the right track. Rafael Correa has been meeting with folks there recently, and as an economist (PhD Illinois Urbana Champagne I think) who has been re-elected twice to the presidency in Ecuador (I was there when the government fell in April of 2005 for about the 10th time in the same number of years), a country showing about 8% growth in IBP, he may just know what he’s talking about. Merkel said what was happening in Ecuador was impressive, but conditions were different. I suppose by that she means that most folks in Ecuador are not blue-eyed blonds? Merkel is a pigheaded racist who has bullied all the other countries in Europe into committing economic suicide. I guess that’s one way to start another war against your European neighbors: let’s see, 1871, 1914, 1939 and now the economic war puts Deuschtland uber alles. One more time.

51

Chaz 04.24.13 at 8:59 pm

Glen, 26
“Ever tried living in a foreign country? As an indigent, bringing with you little or no money, and trying to just get by, forget about thriving, in a country where you don’t know the language and culture well, if at all? Think it wouldn’t be even harder if you were the sort of person most in need of economic opportunity, someone with little education? If you came from a culture in which people tend to rely on extended family, and you have to leave that extended family back in the home country?

What do the official, public policy, barriers to immigration have that even compares to those barriers as disincentives? The whole debate about “immigration policy” is not required by real world exigencies. A Europe or a US with no official barriers would vary little from the present day situation in terms of total numbers who immigrate, because they would still be “protected” by non-official barriers. “

The official, public policy barrier to immigration to the EU is that you have to risk drowning on a ramshackle boat in the Mediterranean to reach Europe, and then once in Europe your asylum request will be denied and they will deport you anyway. You don’t think that’s a big deterrent?

The official U.S. policy, for Mexicans and Central Americans, is that you must risk dying in the Arizona desert, which is probably safer than the Mediterranean. After that you may not claim asylum but you can just stay undocumented and work as a farmworker or a maid. There are a few restrictions: you cannot get a better job, you cannot get public benefits, including education, and if you’re raped you’re not allowed to call the police. So the barriers are perhaps lighter than in Europe but still significant.

As for learning the language, that is an issue, and if you’re migrating from Papua New Guinea to Iceland maybe it’s a dealbreaker. However, most immigrants travel to a country (and city, and neighborhood) where many of their countrymen are already present precisely to solve this problem. The ones already there are adapted to varying degrees and can guide the newcomers, translate for them, and often employ them. That’s why so many Arabs go to Detroit, Somalis go to Maine, and Armenians go to Glendale. Mexicans have more options: there are cities spread across the southwestern U.S. that primarily speak Spanish. Plus there’s a lot of employers who don’t mind having unskilled laborers who don’t speak their language, because they can hire supervisors who speak both languages (probably an earlier immigrant).

So basically I think the legal barriers are a very big factor. There are some countries that just flatly decide they don’t want immigrants (like Japan), and they’re very successful at achieving that. Of course those tend to be countries where the cultural/racism barriers are strong as well, so it’s hard to separate the two.

52

Chaz 04.24.13 at 9:22 pm

@Ronan

Arizona has a stricter immigration law that the rest of the U.S. but it’s not to protect native workers. They are a strongly right wing state and their government doesn’t care in the slightest if the lower classes are unemployed, or even malnourished or homeless. They just hate Mexicans.

53

Chaz 04.24.13 at 9:58 pm

I am not sure I’m familiar with this “south”. Based on the evidence provided, we know:
1) It is inhabited by people with European names (“us”).
2) 97% of the population was killed by pillaging.
3) The pillagers came from the “north”.
4) The northerners scalped the southerners.
5) I (“you”) am a northerner.

I am guessing that the south is the Viking settlement in Vinland, and the northmen are Skraelings. I’m not sure if I’m technically a Skraeling, but I am native to North America so close enough. Please relay my apologies to your Viking countrymen.

54

Ronan(rf) 04.24.13 at 10:10 pm

Fair enough Chaz, and I dont want to derail the thread any more..but Lurkers position boils down to an attempt to ‘protect’ the richest group of people on the planet, without identifying (with evidence) what we’re protecting them from, or how his/her program is going to protect them from this mysterious threat..it’s really little better than Arizona, afaict

55

Alex 04.24.13 at 10:46 pm

Cracking down on the paperless labour and their employers (e.g. Spanish farmers) would dramatically decrease the rate of human smuggling into the Union, but it is not in the interests of the moneyed classes of these member states

I think getting Spanish (or Italian, or Greek) landowners to obey the law as an abstract value is probably so unrealistic as to belong in the dragon thread. Revolution in Germany is more realistic; it happened after all.

56

marthe raymond 04.24.13 at 11:46 pm

Chaz: That was quite a silly pile of steaming cynicism you unloaded here. Been saving it up? Next time, wipe.

The thread now stinks as bad as when the Devil unloaded his cynical bellicosity in the UN General Assembly in 2006.

Chávez may no longer be with us to tell it like it is, but I have inherited his nose.

57

William Berry 04.25.13 at 12:57 am

Marthe Raymond@ 50: ” . . . He may just know what he’s talking about.”

If we are talking about growth, I am sure he does. His betrayal of the indigenous you are always going on about by selling use rights to their land to oil, mineral, and timber interests is almost certain to boost Ecuador’s growth rates.

58

William Berry 04.25.13 at 1:03 am

I apologise for stating that the oil rights were being sold. The development will be by the government itself. But the effect on the indigenous of the Ecauadoran Amazon region will be the same.

59

marthe raymond 04.25.13 at 1:18 am

William: I resent your snide tone–indigenous about whom I am always going on about. Smells pretty racist to this indigenous woman.

I am well aware of the indigenous issues in Ecuador, having spent a fair amount of time there previous to Correa’s presidency. In the particular case that you mentioned, I believe he was and is trying for a Third Way and avoid the ecological disaster that the gringo Big Oil refuses to disburse funds they were ordered to disburse to clean up the mess in Amazonas. Considering we are talking about big billions of bucks, the government could obviously go a long way towards conciliatory dialogue with the various indigenous groups and organizations, which BTW are in no measure hopmogenous, if he had those big bucks in hand.

60

marthe raymond 04.25.13 at 1:30 am

Nevertheless, Correa was speaking from the standpoint of demonstrable failure of austerity plans imposed on this region by the World Bank and the IMF, and that is the issue here–not the pros and cons of extractionist activity.

I rather suspect that Merkel’s objections had much to do with racism and the fact that Correa refused to pay debt that he considered to be illegitimate–and he took that posture as a cabinet member of his predecessor’s government–whereas Merkel is unwilling to accept that social conditions as well as illegitimacy of debt might take precedence over bankers’ profits.

Correa’s point–that you cannot solve economic and social problems by creating more of them, I believe was well taken.

Moreover, I don’t believe that you refuted that point.

61

William Berry 04.25.13 at 1:57 am

Would “you talk about so frequently” be OK? Would that “smell racist”? Help me out here.

On second thought, never mind.

62

marthe raymond 04.25.13 at 2:04 am

Considering that your motive for posting had more to do with being snidely racist than engaging me in a discussion regarding austerity programs versus growing the economy, I don’t think you need my help to dig yourself further into that hole.

63

MPAVictoria 04.25.13 at 3:01 am

Gringo? Really?

64

marthe raymond 04.25.13 at 3:08 am

The last I knew, both Chevron and Exxon Mobile were gringo Big Oil companies.

Yes, really.

Of course both Russia and China are buying many petroleum companies of late….so I may soon be wrong. But I am not wrong now.

65

MPAVictoria 04.25.13 at 3:12 am

I am commenting on your use of the word Gringo. Not really appropriate for this blog I would think.

66

William Berry 04.25.13 at 3:13 am

@Marthe Raymond:

(To begin, I want to apologize to Niamh for going off-topic with this post. I have been called a racist for no reason that I can detect, and feel compelled to respond.)

I am not in a hole, and am not digging. That is your own mistaken perception.

I am, admittedly, a white male (mostly; I am from the kind of ethnic background that is sometimes disparagingly called “southern white trash”– we joke that we don’t know our family tree beyond our great-grandparents, but there is some Scots-Irish, Cherokee Indian, cajun, and probably African-American, at some point, in the mix), so feel free to discount my opinions to whatever extent you choose.

I don’t feel a need to impress anyone with my lefty credentials, but for the record I am a USW steward (more than 30 years), have served over 35-40 years (I am sixty-one now, in semi-retirement) as a USW activist, part-time organizer, president of Amalgamated Local 7686 of the USW, and sometime Democratic party activist– but that last only by default; I voted for Jill Stein in 2012.

Looking back at my first comment, I agree that it came across as more snide than would have been the case had I thought about it more. I apologize. But it did come from genuine anger.

I shouldn’t have to say that I am not a racist. The amazingly casual way you toss out that malicious slander (and I have seen you do it more than once in just the short time you have been posting on CT threads) puts me in mind of the way that some pro-Israel American Jews toss out the charge of anti-semitism whenever someone on the left is critical of Israeli government policy.

All I know about Ecuador is what I have read, which is, I suspect, a lot less than some, a little more than most. I do spend a lot of time in Peru, as my wife is from Lima. She comes from an ethnic background that is probably 80% or more Quechua, and I am not in any way prejudiced against her. We are cautious supporters of President Humala (I have no heroes, so I am always only a cautious supporter).

My anger comes from the near hopelessness I feel about the situation of the real indigenous– the autochthonous peoples throughout the world– who have not been assimilated into the nation-states that claim control of, and the right of disposition of, their land. No government in the world today, that I am aware of– of the right, it goes without saying, but of the left as well– has lived up to its promises to autochthonous peoples. This includes not just Ecuador and Peru, but Brazil, Venezuela, Central America, many more (but you know this, obviously). My pessimism here is part of a more general despair I feel about the hopes for humanity in the 21st century.

Overall, I agree with the basic thrust of 95% of what you say. I am just a little taken aback by what strikes me as a tone of self-righteous arrogance on your part. Maybe that is just your own anger. If that is the case, I don’t doubt that the anger is justified. It is just that no one will engage you when you talk that way. I am sorry that I did so myself (and especially in such a sarcastic tone); it was against my better judgment.

Like you, I am not ashamed to express my opinion under my real name. Anyone who knows me would attest that you have unfairly characterized me. For my part, I am sorry for offending you.

Peace, WSB

67

William Berry 04.25.13 at 3:21 am

@MPAVictoria:

I get your point about the use of the term “gringo”. But the fact is, in many places it is not used as a pejorative. In Peru, at least, where I am familiar with the usage, it is used in a manner similar to the use of yanqui to mean a white north american. There is a slight difference, though– a non-white person from the north could be a yanqui but not a gringo.

68

js. 04.25.13 at 3:52 am

I’m with Ronan on the Arizona comparison. So yeah, the Arizonans in question are straight-up unreconstructed racists. Lurker is a social-democrat! But effectively, as it applies to immigration, the policy proposal is not after all so different. And frankly, right-wingers in the US can go on and on about how “legal immigrants” are Teh Awesome, and how the unwashed Others are taking oh-so-precious jobs away from hard-working blue-collar Americans.

69

marthe raymond 04.25.13 at 4:23 am

William, racism has been institutionalized in the US since before it was the US–it was the entire justification for invasion, colonization and genocide. It is the driving rationalization for savage capitalism, for pillaging the south for its resources–and I mean the south of this planet. It is reflected in the assmption that if you look and act white, you are superior to non-whites. The fact that I identify myself as an indigenous person means that white folks immediately treat me snidely and with disparagement–despite my PhD received more than 40 years ago and my long run as an educator, poet, playwright, film critic, that I am fluent in several languages and have travelled a big part of the planet. The catch is: I look white. But in a forum such as this, folks assume all the physical stereotypes of an indigenous person apply to me and they try to do the gringo dance on my head.

You did it, and I appreciate your having apologized.

70

William Berry 04.25.13 at 4:36 am

OK, so by being skeptical of a LA “leftist” pol, I did a “gringo dance on your head”?

I have no effing idea what you are talking about, so I guess I’ll just have to take your word for it!

71

marthe raymond 04.25.13 at 4:42 am

Now, as to your comment about indigenous folks not having been assimilated into the nation states that control their resources, a 19th century plan that was tantamount to cultural genocide–thank god that failed. Indigenous people do not want to be assimilated. They want to live on their ancestral lands–what is left of them– in peace and control their own resources, before they are all ripped off by Canadian mining companies, Big Oil, and so forth. A wonderful Peruvian writer, Manuel Scorza, wrote a group of 5 novels about the struggles of indigenous people in the sierra who tried to control their land and water that was constantly being ripped off by foreign mining companies. I don’t know if they are available in English. José María Arguedas wrote several novels on the same topic before he became so depressed that he committed suicide. I know where the anger and frustration of an indigenist can lead. Even if one tries to manage it through the creative process.

72

William Berry 04.25.13 at 4:52 am

MR@71:

That was what I meant in mentioning unassimilated autochthons. We are in complete agreement on that point, but again, I am not optimistic about the outcome.

73

William Berry 04.25.13 at 4:55 am

And my Spanish is mediocre (pero estoy aprendiendo) but I will check out the works you mention. I have copy/ pasted into iPad Pages. Thnx.

74

marthe raymond 04.25.13 at 5:14 am

I am not optimistic either, William. And I will go even further and repeat what I have said over and over: that if the indigenous vision of living as part of the natural world does not prevail, our species is toast. We have confused being at the top of the food chain with being the fittest.

The term gringo dance is of my authorship, but has taken on a life of its own here. The dance occurs when the gringo is out of his normal milieu and/or is confronted with a situation he cannot control and he goes ballistic and starts telling everybody to do things his way. An immigration office in Mexico usually offers a couple of shows a day of folks doing the gringo dance. There are “safe” places to do that dance….immigration offices are not.

75

roger nowosielski 04.25.13 at 5:53 am

@ 66, William Berry 04.25.13 at 3:13 am (@Marthe Raymond):

“It is just that no one will engage you when you talk that way.”

Apparently, William, you’ve just disproved your own statement, for your #66 is as impassioned and frank as they come. Perhaps we all need a little push & shove to speak honestly and from the heart. And your exchange with Marthe is a case in point: it couldn’t be better.

76

niamh 04.25.13 at 7:05 am

Well, people, I am glad you have found your own way back to civilized discourse.

77

Markos Valaris 04.25.13 at 8:04 am

I am surprised Lurker hasn’t gotten more pushback for his claim that immigration is bound to undermine the European welfare state.

Chris Bertram a while back posted here explicitly asking for assessments of the economic costs of immigration, and as I remember that thread basically came up blank. So far as I can tell, the assessments of the economic impact of immigration range from the wildly optimistic (triple world GDP by opening all the borders!) to the more sober, but still fundamentally positive. I’ve been following this debate for a while, and I think this post (which someone else linked to upthread as well) summarizes what I’ve seen pretty well:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/01/29/five-things-economists-know-about-immigration/

Basiscally, everyone agrees that immigration increases aggregate growth, and real wages for most native workers as well. There is controversy over whether there is a small negative effect on real wages near the bottom of the income distribution. This, in my opinion, is a serious issue, and one that any sensible discussion on immigration needs to address, but hardly a doomsday scenario for the welfare state. And, in fact, in the European context the “tax-and-transfer” solution seems perfectly appropriate to me, and less susceptible to the theory of politics critique. After all, in contrast to the US, in much of Europe the principle of paying relatively high taxes to support relatively generous transfers and good public services is already entrenched.

As for Greece, until relatively recently the impact of immigration was clearly positive. I have seen first-hand how immigration (from Eastern Europe) helped revitalize parts of the countryside that were rapidly declining. For decades, young people would leave the countryside to move to the cities to study and get better paid jobs. These people used to never be replaced, until young families from Eastern Europe started moving in, in the ’90s.

The biggest threat to the welfare state in Europe right now is disastrous macroeconomic policy leading to prolonged recession, and in the worst hit countries rapid emigration, which worsens the demographic picture. Immigration is not the issue.

78

Alex 04.25.13 at 8:10 am

the indigenous vision

Aren’t those indigenous people cute, with their vision, that’s apparently the same everywhere?

79

Alex 04.25.13 at 8:14 am

The biggest threat to the welfare state in Europe right now is disastrous macroeconomic policy leading to prolonged recession, and in the worst hit countries rapid emigration, which worsens the demographic picture. Immigration is not the issue.

This is true. Edward Hugh was and is hideously (and profitably) wrong about the European economy, but he did spot very early on that Spain had seen its demographics go into reverse thanks to immigrants, and that this could unwind, fast, in the event of a recession.

80

niamh 04.25.13 at 8:23 am

No, enough already, Alex@78.
Markos Valeris@77, you’re right in general about immigration, though there are many more things that could be said about skill composition, the challenges of integration of people from widely different linguistic and cultural backgrounds, and the ways in which people can acquire citizenship.
But the legal apparatus governing people who arrive as refugees and asylum-seekers puts these groups in a particularly difficult situation. (For some comments on the UK, for example, see this ). All the more gravely so when people find themselves in a state that is broke and can’t help them, or even sort out their status properly, but which they are not permitted to leave either. This is why the plight of people in Greece, documented in the movies I’ve linked to here, is in fact a Europe-wide responsibility.

81

Ronan(rf) 04.25.13 at 11:18 am

Here’s some more on Frontex and their role in Greece for anyone interested:

http://www.hrw.org/reports/2011/09/21/eu-s-dirty-hands-0

82

marthe raymond 04.25.13 at 2:31 pm

Roger, thanks for reinforcing an occasional real interchange on this site, which is usually only a dialogue of deaf people and a circle jerk of nostalgia for the good ole days of white privilege when non-whites were not “uppity”.

The comment by the OP about “civilized discourse” is a blatant throwback to those days–when all means were fair to “civilize the heathens”. Of course most of the planet considers that whites were and are the barbarians, given their proclivity for genocide, but nostalgia isn’t about what was real.

This thread makes obvious that the ugly racism which you folks try to cover up is very much alive and is at the basis of your “civilized discourse” on immigration.

83

MPAVictoria 04.25.13 at 2:45 pm

“Roger, thanks for reinforcing an occasional real interchange on this site, which is usually only a dialogue of deaf people and a circle jerk of nostalgia for the good ole days of white privilege when non-whites were not “uppity”.

The comment by the OP about “civilized discourse” is a blatant throwback to those days–when all means were fair to “civilize the heathens”. Of course most of the planet considers that whites were and are the barbarians, given their proclivity for genocide, but nostalgia isn’t about what was real.

This thread makes obvious that the ugly racism which you folks try to cover up is very much alive and is at the basis of your “civilized discourse” on immigration.”

Man… I don’t even know.

84

marthe raymond 04.25.13 at 8:29 pm

MPA: Apparently you gringos are so habituated to having to have the last word that you will try to do so, even when those words are not even yours!

85

MPAVictoria 04.25.13 at 9:06 pm

“MPA: Apparently you gringos are so habituated to having to have the last word that you will try to do so, even when those words are not even yours!”

Yes.

86

MPAVictoria 04.25.13 at 9:07 pm

“MPA: Apparently you gringos are so habituated to having to have the last word that you will try to do so, even when those words are not even yours!”

Also I don’t appreciate being called a gringo. Any of the people who run this blog want to do anything about this? Or are racial slurs and casual accusations of racism suddenly okay at Crooked Timber?

87

marthe raymond 04.25.13 at 10:00 pm

MPA: Another poster explained the use of the term gringo to you last night on this thread in post 67.

It is exactly as he described it. White people from the US are called gringos here in Latin America–where I have lived for 20 years. There is nothing perjorative about it, as it is common usage not only in conversation on the street, but in journalistic articles, legislative debates, and so forth. You are taking offense where none was meant–especially since my initial use of the term referred to white-owned multinational oil companies.

Stop whining. And stop trying to bully me. Your behavior to me, especially in view of the fact that a white poster explained the innocuous usage of the term gringo to you, is racist bullying. You are calling for me to be banned because I present views that are uncomfortable for you as a white person. You are being offensive, and you mean to be.

I am resting my case here. Please refrain from further uncited use of my posts.

88

MPAVictoria 04.25.13 at 10:07 pm

“I am resting my case here. Please refrain from further uncited use of my posts.”
What does that even mean? Please stop calling me a gringo as I am, one, not one and, two, I find the term offence. And you are the one who is trying to bully people with false accusations of racism.

89

The Raven 04.25.13 at 10:11 pm

Lurker@14: “If given a chance, perhaps 300-400 million [Africans and Asians] would move to European Union, which has some 500 million inhabitants.”

How is this possible? Why is this so? It is hard being a refugee—why would so many people want to be refugees?

Where did this number come from?

90

Watson Ladd 04.25.13 at 11:38 pm

marthe, are you against conquering foreign lands and sacrificing their inhabitants to your gods? Because that was happening in Mexico before Cortez: in fact, it was one of the main reasons why he conquered it. You also fail to realize that white people can also be indigenous: think of Scotland and the English conquest, as necessary for the freedom of the people of Scotland from the lairds as painful as it was.

As for the topic, immigration is a new phenomenon. An empire could have subjects from abroad, but never member of the imperial class. The neo-Assyrian empire had within it Aramaic tribesmen who wandered in, but they were not immigrants in the sense we would recognize it today, insofar as the political constitution was very different. The creation of the welfare state raises the question of who will be entitled to its gains, and it’s not clear that a rights-based analysis is coherent. For one thing, there is no supernational law.

91

marthe raymond 04.26.13 at 12:02 am

Watson:

I live in Mexico, but I am not Mexican, so I fail to identify with your assumptions about my gods. Cortés (note correct spelling) was no avenging angel for indigenous people, but simply put together a coalition of groups who were enemies of the Aztecas. His goal was to enrich the coffers of Spain.

2. I have a bit of Irish in my heritage, actually, so I am well aware that there are indigenous whites. My people come from Canada, and an Irishman who had immigrated got into the mix. I am also aware that the practice of scalping was brought to this hemisphere by the English after road-testing it in several campaigns against the Irish.

92

marthe raymond 04.26.13 at 12:12 am

Since the point I made earlier in this thread was that most immigration today is the result of countries of the southern sector of the planet having been colonized and pillaged by countries of the north and therefore is a result of economic disenfranchisement, I find myself simply unable to see how your post applies to my point.

Although I have spent time in the Middle East, and am reasonably familiar with the history of Assyria, having mounted a theater project there with a character named Ashurbanipal visiting the ruins created in Iraq by the US invasion, I am unfamiliar with any neo-Assyrian empire and legal structure.

93

Markos Valaris 04.26.13 at 12:20 am

Niamh:…though there are many more things that could be said about skill composition, the challenges of integration of people from widely different linguistic and cultural backgrounds, and the ways in which people can acquire citizenship.</i.

Sure, but Lurker's argument was based on the supposedly unbearable economic costs of immigration.

As for the challenges of integration, I suppose one could find lots of things to say about them, but being myself an economic immigrant (though a white-collar one) to Australia—a country where 26% of the population was born elsewhere, and 46% has at least one parent born elsewhere—I doubt that they fundamentally change the picture. Far from being patchworks of disaffected ethnic enclaves at war with each other, Australian cities routinely rank among the most desirable places to live in the world.

94

Markos Valaris 04.26.13 at 12:29 am

@43: The states of Virginia and Scotland had a right to make slavery legal, Henry V’s Parliament had a right to enact that heretics be burned alive in public.

I am unsure whether this is a symptom of deep confusion or a brilliant dialectical strategy: “see, I know and accept that my view has ridiculous and abhorrent consequences, so don’t even bother trying any of your silly reductio arguments on me!”

I’ve seen analytic metaphysicians try this strategy before, but it’s quite something to see it used in moral/political discussions.

95

marthe raymond 04.26.13 at 12:32 am

I believe for a spell Australia actually paid its immigrants. Or did I just dream that? Seems to me that’s how a lot of Lebanese people ended up there.

Of course they could have come to Mexico like the family of the World’s Richest Man, Carlos Slim (Saleem)….

96

another lurker 04.26.13 at 6:44 am

‘Where did this number come from?’ (Raven, 89)
Thin air.
Eastern Europe has millions of poor Roma, who as EU citizens have legal access to the rest of the EU.
My home town Helsinki has a couple of hundred of them begging on the streets. Not exactly a boon to our economy but not an invasion either.

97

ajay 04.26.13 at 10:19 am

Every time a new member joins the European union, politicians in Germany, the UK etc. claim that this will result in millions of people moving to their country. The actual numbers of migrants are invariably much lower than the scaremongering numbers thus suggested.

Not invariably. A big reason this discussion is happening in the UK is that the accession of the central European states to the EU led to a hell of a lot more Polish and Czech immigration to the UK than anyone had expected – half a million or more.

You also fail to realize that white people can also be indigenous: think of Scotland and the English conquest, as necessary for the freedom of the people of Scotland from the lairds as painful as it was.

Christ, Watson, read a history book or something. This is just embarrassing to watch. “The English conquest”. “Freedom from the lairds”. God give me strength.

thanks for reinforcing an occasional real interchange on this site, which is usually only a dialogue of deaf people and a circle jerk of nostalgia for the good ole days of white privilege when non-whites were not “uppity”.

One wonders why she keeps coming back.

98

ajay 04.26.13 at 10:22 am

“Moreover, claims about the millions of people who would move if given the chance are merely evidence free assertions (what people say in opinion surveys counts for nothing).”

Okay but where is the evidence that they would stay put?

Well, quite. Arguing that complete removal of immigration controls would not result in increased immigration is essentially saying that immigration controls have no effect on immigration – which seems odd. Everyone in the world who wants to live and work in the UK – and who has the cash to get here – is already here? Really?

99

Ronan(rf) 04.26.13 at 10:34 am

” Arguing that complete removal of immigration controls would not result in increased immigration”

No one, certainly not the OP, has argued that

100

Ronan(rf) 04.26.13 at 10:38 am

If you’re in favour of removing restriction to immigration, in part for humaniatrian reasons, then you *want* more people to come..what hasn’t been shown is that this would lead to the numbers Lurker claims (500 million) or that economic affects in the receiving state would be negative

101

Ronan(rf) 04.26.13 at 10:49 am

“Not invariably. A big reason this discussion is happening in the UK is that the accession of the central European states to the EU led to a hell of a lot more Polish and Czech immigration to the UK than anyone had expected – half a million or more.”

One of the reasons there was so much Polish Czech etc immigration to Ireland and Britain (iirc) is that we, along with Sweden I think, were the only countries to allow unrestricted immigration from the accession states for the first 5 years. If there was a truly global commitment to open borders, (or a truly Europen one with the accession states), then this wouldnt be such an issue, theoretically

102

Ciaran 04.26.13 at 10:59 am

Of course conditions are far , far worse in North Africa and parts of the Middle East than they are in say Croatia or Romania , so it may not be the best comparison .

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Chris Bertram 04.26.13 at 11:13 am

Eastern Europe has millions of poor Roma, who as EU citizens have legal access to the rest of the EU.

How many millions? I’m having a hard job getting as far as 2.

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Ronan(rf) 04.26.13 at 11:15 am

No it’s not a perfect comparison, but there are a number of softer (cultural, geographic, language) incentives for regional migration, (As ajay pointed out above Saudi Arabia is the second most popular destination for people polled in North Africa on where they plan on emigrating to) so I’m not sure a strict comparison of living conditions (however measured) is the be all and end all.
And just to stress, pretty much all migration from humanitarian disasters is dealt with on a regional basis by neighbouring states,( as in Iraq and Syria.) and most migration (afaik) is still internal, from rural to urban.

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Mao Cheng Ji 04.26.13 at 11:41 am

“Everyone in the world who wants to live and work in the UK – and who has the cash to get here – is already here?”

Also, what is surprising to me, in these ‘immigration as a human right’ threads, is that the argument about ‘the cash to get here’ is even presented. If the ‘immigration is a human right’ side wants to be consistent, surely they should include in their demands buying a plane ticket for everyone who wants to emigrate, every time he/she decides they want to. Otherwise, what, is this just for the benefit of the middle-classes?

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Ronan(rf) 04.26.13 at 11:50 am

Sure, charter a plane.
Unrestricted immigration would be the opposite of to ‘the benefit of the middle classes’, since it would prevent ‘middle class interest groups’ from lobbying the government for restrictions on immigration that would effect them, as ‘they’ do

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Ronan(rf) 04.26.13 at 11:52 am

..which is also somewhat contradictory to the argument that immigration doesnt have a substantial downward affect on wages

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Mao Cheng Ji 04.26.13 at 12:04 pm

“Unrestricted immigration would be the opposite of to ‘the benefit of the middle classes’, since it would prevent ‘middle class interest groups’ from lobbying the government for restrictions on immigration that would effect them, as ‘they’ do”

Middle-classes of the likely emigrees’ countries, if that’s not clear. Hypothetically, everybody in a place like DRC, for example, who has at least a few thousand dollars, might immediately emigrate, leaving behind those who got nothing. But maybe it’ll work out fine in the end, what do I know.

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Ronan(rf) 04.26.13 at 12:09 pm

Ah I get you, yeah fair enough

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another lurker 04.26.13 at 1:32 pm

@103
I should have checked that, I remembered the big round number guesstimates.
But even with just a million or two, most Western Europeans would like them to stay where they are. Mostly they do, because it’s not that easy to move en masse someplace where you have no place to stay and no job. The hundreds of millions of potential migrants assumed by the Lurker would find this equally challenging.

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Mao Cheng Ji 04.26.13 at 1:42 pm

So, provide them with a place to stay, and a decent income. Otherwise you’re like those anti-abortion people, who believe that life begins at conception and ends at birth…

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another lurker 04.26.13 at 2:32 pm

@111 (Mao)
Here, specifically, the housing situation is tragicomical (a bubble, only without the huge number of new housing that you get in most cases) and the employment situation dire. How can we provide others with things we can’t provide ourselves?
You’re suggesting something generous but all we have is austerity.

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marthe raymond 04.26.13 at 3:00 pm

Well, yeah folks:

Immigration is a problem. It causes inconveniences. It is a result of colonialism. Mexico, for example, has had two revolutions and is still a colony–of the US and Spain. Mexicans are the largest group of immigrants–documemted and ndocmented–in the US.

Yes, there is a connection.

Immigration means the chickens have decided to roost at your home because your colonialization destroyed theirs. And you have chickenfeed–less than before, perhaps, but more than the zero chickenfeed that they have.

This ain’t rocket science, folks.

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Mao Cheng Ji 04.26.13 at 3:08 pm

another lurker, 112 , but if you want to be generous and provide workers of the world with food, shelter, etc, then you might consider providing it right there, where they are now. You’ll save on the plain ticket, and there will be less traffic where you live.

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marthe raymond 04.26.13 at 4:18 pm

Mao: you didn’t ask me that question, but I am going to point out that billions have been spent to ship food to areas where hunger dominates. The most cynical have simply dropped it from helicopters so they can watch the “ants” scramble for it.

Unless you plan to fully adopt the millions of hungry folks in Africa, which means providing food, clothing, shelter, health services and education until–when?–you should forget that plan.

Why? Because if the agricultural infrastructure to produce adequate alimentation is not there, and you don’t plan to develop it, the outcome is obvious.

That plane ticket’s cost might well prove to be pretty attractive–if you actually think things through.

Meanwhile, who is giving odds on the immigration reform passing in the US since the Boston/Chechenia Blowout?

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MPAVictoria 04.26.13 at 4:19 pm

“Middle-classes of the likely emigrees’ countries, if that’s not clear. Hypothetically, everybody in a place like DRC, for example, who has at least a few thousand dollars, might immediately emigrate, leaving behind those who got nothing. But maybe it’ll work out fine in the end, what do I know.”
This is actually a big problem in many African countries. The people with the skills and resources to actually improve things are the ones most likely to emigrate. Not sure what the answer is though.

117

another lurker 04.26.13 at 4:25 pm

@114 (Mao)
At the moment it more like ‘we can’t have nice things so why should the [insert bigoted epithet] get any?’. The True Finns, for example, are in favour of helping refugees where they are right now AND cutting development aid to nothing.
No generosity or solidarity to be seen. The Lurker (the original one) seems to want to preserve a welfare state for Our People, never mind the rest, but that is not going to happen either, if present trends continue.

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Lurker 04.26.13 at 4:34 pm

Mostly they do, because it’s not that easy to move en masse someplace where you have no place to stay and no job. The hundreds of millions of potential migrants assumed by the Lurker would find this equally challenging.

Please note that I take as granted that anyone resident in the country has an absolute right for “a place to stay” satisfying the need for privacy and an income that allows survival. An immigrant who arrived a day ago has this right also, and because he is likely to be ignorant of the fact, it is the society’s duty to actively offer social services and to make its best to lower this barrier for migration. So, instead of informal barriers (i.e. terrible living and working conditions for immigrants), I support high formal barriers and active social policies targeted at immigrants.

The problem in Greece (and also in Spain and Italy) is that the system is not working this way. Asylum-seekers (other illegal entrants are usually summarily deported) have a right for living conditions where they can have family life, sustenance, clothing and a fair hearing with a possibility for appeal. Greece gives none of these to her asylum-seekers, which is a real problem. As we, in the Union, are actually dictating the Greek budget, we should also shoulder responsibility for the blight of the poor asylum-seekers of Greece.

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Stephen 04.26.13 at 5:01 pm

Markos Valaris @94: no, it’s not a matter of avoiding a reductio ad absurdum. Perhaps I did not make myself clear. I’ll try again.

CB states that states have no right to ban or restrict immigration across their borders.

I reply that denying states’ rights is not a helpful argument. Consider (my first example) Prohibition in the US. I maintain, and I think most of CT would agree, that this was a foolish, counterproductive, deeply harmful and unworkable project. Nevertheless, it does not follow that Congress had no right to enact the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act; and anybody who in 1919 had argued that they had no such right would have had a very hard time of it. Congress, in short, had the indisputable right to do what I, and many others, think was very wrong.

If you disagree, I would be very interested to know why.

Extend this to more extreme cases: slavery in Virginia, burning heretics in England. I think the same argument applies. If by some act of magnificent necromancy you could converse with an antebellum Virginian, or an early fifteenth-century English Catholic, I don’t think it would be any use arguing that their legislatures had no right to do what they in fact did. Arguing that what they did was wrong, now that’s another matter.

So to return to immigration controls: it is futile to say that states have no right to impose them. Saying that they are foolish, counterproductive, deeply harmful and unworkable: those are meaningful arguments, but have to be made quite separately from high-sounding declarations that states have no such rights.

Unless, of course, you sink to the level of declaring that states have no right to make laws I do not agree with.

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roger nowosielski 04.26.13 at 6:02 pm

@119

Well put, Stephen.

There’s another “argument,” besides. You can’t accept the right of a state to exist while, at the same time, denying it a right to do anything whatever, even the right to institute a permanent state of exception (Agamben). Is this something on the order of a grammatical remark (to clear up the confusion)?

Conversely, to affirm that states have no right(s) (to makes laws, for instance), one must deny the right of states (to exist).

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roger nowosielski 04.26.13 at 7:15 pm

@ 115, marthe raymond 04.26.13 at 4:18 pm

“Unless you plan to fully adopt the millions of hungry folks in Africa, which means providing food, clothing, shelter, health services and education until–when?–you should forget that plan.

Why? Because if the agricultural infrastructure to produce adequate alimentation is not there, and you don’t plan to develop it, the outcome is obvious.”

QFT

The first order of business must be to restore those nations to to the state of agricultural self-sufficiency.

In this connection, you might like the work of James Scott, as per this interview, for instance: “James Scott on Agriculture as Politics, the Dangers of Standardization and Not Being Governed.” He draws an intricate connection between agricultural sustainability and radical politics.

It’s also interesting that the most ambitious political reforms ever attempted were always land/agricultural reforms at bottom (or at the center), from the Gracchi brothers to Julius Caesar, not to mention the peasant revolts throughout the European history or land reforms following (as well as providing impetus for) the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.

And it’s no different , I suppose, with South/Latin American countries that, once checked the imperialist aggression, undertook major agrarian reforms as a sure path to restoring social justice.

(The link to James Scott I owe to another CT poster, on “Socialism without a Map,” I believe.)

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roger nowosielski 04.26.13 at 7:17 pm

. . . once having checked . . .

123

marthe raymond 04.26.13 at 8:34 pm

Roger: Imperialist agression has never really been checked in Latin America. Only last week the Horsefaced Hawk, John Kerry, referred to Latin America as the US’ back patio–which immediately provoked indignant responses on the part of Evo Morales of Bolivia as well as the foreign minister of Venezuela–among others. Yesterday Horseface the Lesser, Roberta Jacobson, changed the term to “strategic zone”–still, of course, with the possessive our.

Agrarian reform is very close to my heart–two of my heroes being Kropotkin and Emiliano Zapata–and ten years ago at this time I had just returned from Venezuela after participating in a roundtable discussion taking the measure of what had been the advances to date of Venezuela’s agrarian reform. Over the next year I gave several conferences in the region on the topic, “Agrarian Reform: Indispensable or Useless?” which examined reforms initiated in the 60s in Cuba and Peru, in the early 70s in Chile, in the 80s in Nicaragua as well the one then being undertaken by Venezuela.

The common thread of failed agrarian reforms is lack of institutional continuity–which means that a government of the left undertakes an agrarian reform with some appearance of success, only to be booted from power by a US-backed coup in the style of Pinochet/Kissinger or by, in the case of Nicaragua, a mercenary war finally pinned up by a travesty of elections. The new government, de facto or not, immediately sets about dismantling any institutions and laws that affected the oligarchy’s privileges during the previous x number of years–land given to campesinos reverts to the hands of the wealthier latifundistas and the landless campesinos immigrate to the large cities to live in the slums.

The only exception to this scenario has been Cuba–not because imperialist agression was ever checked, but because it had institutional continuity long enough to carry out the reform, and because the government to date has not been overthrown.

Mexico is a complicated story of another sort–where with typical Mexican political cynicism, since 1940 the agrarian reform was institutionalized–with its own Secretary and so forth–with the explicit mandate to never initiate any sort of agrarian reform. Indigenous and other campesinos have been fighting for decades to get the land back that was ripped off from them under the guise of agrarian reform and either given outright or rented to multinational Big Seed or Big Mining–an agrarian reform in reverse, in fact. Zapata has been spinning in his tiny tomb in the base of his multimeter statue in the Revolution Park in my town during those same decades.

In the majority of African countries the same institutional discontinuity has prevailed, and therefore instead of agricultural infrastructure having improved there, the slums in the big cities have gotten bigger. Africa is especially vulnerable to climactic instability as well–although here in Mexico extended droughts over the past 15 to 20 years have created conditions of extreme alimentary instability as well. And since it is large Big Seed and Big Intermediary that profit mightily from those conditions, food prices have skyrocketed here over the past 5 years–which makes it very tough for those folks living on tiny parcels of land with no access to irrigation to feed themselves either from the mercados or from growing their own basic foodstuffs.

Their response to that situation can be seen in the tennis shoe footprints in the desert between Sasabe, Sonora and Tucson, Arizona.

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marthe raymond 04.26.13 at 8:37 pm

largeLY Big Seed…

125

novakant 04.26.13 at 10:45 pm

A big reason this discussion is happening in the UK is that the accession of the central European states to the EU led to a hell of a lot more Polish and Czech immigration to the UK than anyone had expected – half a million or more.

Aaaaand ….? Finally the UK got plumbers who know what they’re doing .

(The skill level of these and other tradesmen in the UK is appaling.)

126

Chris Bertram 04.26.13 at 10:55 pm

CB states that states have no right to ban or restrict immigration across their borders.

Actually, I wrote that Lurker’s argument presupposed such a right, but that no argument had been provided.

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Markos Valaris 04.27.13 at 11:42 am

Stephen:

First, let’s agree that “I have a right to do X” just means “I do not have a duty not to do X”. Now suppose that you and I are not members of any common political order. And suppose that we happen to meet, and I happen to be more powerful than you—I have guns, let’s say, and you don’t. Suppose that I proceed to take away your property and enslave you. Have I thereby wronged you? I don’t just mean, have I harmed you—I mean, have I done wrong by you, have I violated a duty I had towards you?

If yes, then it follows that I did not have a right to do what I did. And I do not think that it would make any difference if we stipulate that I was acting on behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia. If so, then it follows that the Commonwealth of Virginia did not have a right to practice slavery either.

If, on the other hand, you think that I would not wrong you by enslaving you, then you are probably not willing to accept that there exist any rights that are not granted by a pre-existing political authority. If so, then indeed it would be pretty hard to apply rights-talk to states themselves. Is this your view?

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marthe raymond 04.27.13 at 2:05 pm

Mark, Please don’t take this personally, but your post reminds me of some of the convolutedly silly bits undergraduates used to get up to in philosophy classes when they didn’t have a clue but wanted to get attention.

Some of them used to wear what were called back in the early 60s Australian driving hats, with apparently the same intention….

One quick way to learn about colonialism, revolution and counter-revolution as well as RIGHTS: Watch Pontecorvo’s second 60s masterwork, Burn!, with Marlon Brando.

Keep watching it until you understand where you have placed yourself in the schema represented.

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Stephen 04.28.13 at 6:49 pm

Chris Bertram@126: apologies, I may have misunderstood you. You wrote that “Lurker simply presupposes that states have the moral right to exclude would be migrants but provides no argument whatsoever for this right to exclude”. I assumed, apparently wrongly, that you meant to argue that there were no such arguments.

I am glad that is not in fact your position, for (as I have shown) it is not defensible.

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Stephen 04.28.13 at 6:58 pm

Markos Valeris @127: in your hypothetical example, if “you and I are not members of any common political order” then surely it makes no sense whatever to talk of rights or duties between us.

My point, which I will repeat, is that if at time T people mostly believe they have a right to do something, it is no use to say that since at time T + a century or so, or more, later people do not believe that, it follows people at time T had no right to do what we now believe was wrong.

If you deny that, you commit yourself to the belief that we either have or have not a right to do what we do now, in 2013, depending on what most people will agree in 2113, 2213, 2313 …

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Chris Bertram 04.28.13 at 7:19 pm

“I am glad that is not in fact your position, for (as I have shown) it is not defensible.”

I’m not sure where you did that, certainly not in this comments thread, and it is harder to establish that states do have such a moral right than you suppose. The examples you give all involve states imposing laws on their own citizens, rather than on outsiders. If you are genuinely interested in thinking about this issue (which I doubt) then Debating the Ethics of Immigration, by Wellman and Cole (Wellman for the right to exclude, Cole against) would be a good place to start reading.

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Markos Valaris 04.29.13 at 7:04 am

in your hypothetical example, if “you and I are not members of any common political order” then surely it makes no sense whatever to talk of rights or duties between us.

The whole point of the example, of course, was to give you some reason to think that maybe it does make some sense to talk in this way. That was my earlier point about the “brilliant” dialectical strategy: if you are upfront about accepting that slavery does not violate the slave’s rights, then of course it’s hard to see how you can be moved from that position. Equally, though, it is hard to see why anyone would be attracted to that position in the first place!

If you deny that, you commit yourself to the belief that we either have or have not a right to do what we do now, in 2013, depending on what most people will agree in 2113, 2213, 2313

No, I do not commit myself to that. Whether we have a right to do what we do now is determined by the facts of the matter—i.e., what rights/duties we really, in fact, do have.

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Mao Cheng Ji 04.29.13 at 7:59 am

Markos: ” Suppose that I proceed to take away your property and enslave you. Have I thereby wronged you? I don’t just mean, have I harmed you—I mean, have I done wrong by you, have I violated a duty I had towards you? “

You’re operating within purely liberal, individualistic terms, but most people don’t. A lot of people view the world as a place where where nations, classes, races, income categories, etc, struggle and compete against each other. In this paradigm, individuals harming each other sometimes means zilch; simply not in the scope. A vast majority of people do accept some version of this, and so purely individualistic approach is unlikely to convince anybody. That’s why, you see, other commenters here keep suggesting that mass immigration is not likely to harm the host nation, or the poor in the host nation. That’s a very important part.

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Stephen 04.29.13 at 8:51 am

Chris Bertram@131: “The examples you give all involve states imposing laws on their own citizens, rather than on outsiders.” I’m not sure what point you are making there. Sure, a state has no right (under currently accepted international law) to send police into another state’s territory, investigate crimes, arrest suspects, and try and sentence them there. (You may remember that after Sarajevo, this was the one Austrian demand that Serbia could not agree to.) So, relevant to immigration, the US has no right to impose laws on other people while they are in other states. But in limiting immigration, the US is imposing laws on outsiders in US territory, and I can’t see why the US has no right to do that. Outsiders who commit a crime in the US are surely liable to have US laws imposed on them, aren’t they?

It is a cheap rhetorical trick, and I think unworthy of you, to suggest that someone who disagrees with you cannot possibly be interested in the subject. I thank you for mentioning the Wellman and Cole book, which I will read if I have leisure.

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Stephen 04.29.13 at 9:07 am

Markos Valaris@132
You seem to think I am advocating slavery, which I am not. If you remember, I started by saying I am passionately opposed to it.

What I am arguing is that it makes no sense to say that a state has no right to do something, simply because I (and others who are likeminded) think it should not do it. In short: a state may have the right, in the sense that most people at the time agree it has the right, to do what I think wrong. With regard to slavery, antebellum Virginians thought they had the right to impose it; at the time of American independence, all the US thought they had that right; now, everyone thinks they were wrong. With regard to immigration controls, almost everyone now thinks states have the right to impose them. Possibly at some future date, people may think otherwise. I don’t think it makes sense to base arguments on time-dependent rights. Arguing that some law is harmful, now, that’s a different matter.

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Markos Valaris 04.30.13 at 12:38 am

Stephen,

This is going to be my last comment on this, because we are clearly talking past each other. What I think you are mistaken about is this:

it makes no sense to say that a state has no right to do something, simply because I (and others who are likeminded) think it should not do it. In short: a state may have the right, in the sense that most people at the time agree it has the right, to do what I think wrong.

Who has what rights/duties is not determined by what most people think, either at that time or at any time.

You say that you are “passionately opposed” to slavery, and of course I believe you. But if you actually tried to think this through, you might find that you have painted yourself into a corner here. For why is slavery wrong?

Is it because it reduces overall happiness? To argue this you need to counterbalance the misery caused by slavery with the prosperity and comfort enjoyed by the slaveowners. The numbers might work out, but then again they might not.

Moreover, to say that the wrongness of slavery consists in something impersonal, like an overall reduction of happiness seems to leave something crucial out. Slavery has perpetrators and victims. It is not just a matter of impersonal harm, it is an injury to certain particular human beings. The slaveholders are guilty not just of causing a net decrease of happiness in the world, but of victimizing these particular people.

It is just this last point that talk of rights is meant to capture. The wrongness of slavery consists centrally in violating fundamental rights of the slaves. These rights don’t have to be granted them by any political legal authority; they have them in virtue of their humanity. And they have them regardless of what anyone else thinks.

So my point is that if you deny yourself the concept of a right that does not depend on political authority (or on what “most people think”), then you will not be able to explain why slavery (or burning at the stake etc.) is wrong.

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