As the political battle over immigration raged this summer, conservative talking heads tried to portray Democratic politicians as calling for “open borders.”
The lie that Democrats support open borders is an especially ludicrous claim, as none of their lawmakers have even come close to advocating the policy.
Which is a shame, because open borders with Mexico and Canada would be a great idea for reasons I will explain below.
But first, let’s start with the arguments for our current system of closed borders.
The first objection to open borders voiced by both liberals and conservatives usually has to do with keeping drug smugglers and human traffickers out of our country.
I hate to break it to you, but by their own admission, Customs and Border Patrol already fails to do this on a massive scale.
Most drug smugglers go through major border crossings, driving vehicles stuffed with narcotics right under Border Patrol’s nose.
The heavy flow of traffic through these crossings makes it impossible to inspect every vehicle. Drug smugglers know they are much less likely to be caught going through authorized border crossing points than trudging through the desert where there is no crowd to blend into.
Human traffickers use both methods: Some bring undocumented immigrants through border crossings; others take them along isolated and dangerous routes through the desert.
But much human trafficking only exists because of our strict border policy.
If people could cross the border at will and work where they pleased, they would not need to be smuggled in by predatory “coyotes.”
Many naysayers think an open-border policy would be some kind of complicated, disruptive proposal.
I would like to introduce to them the concept of a vast nation carved up into diverse political units – let’s call them “states”– each with their own laws, united under a federated government and between which citizens of that government can travel freely. It works fine, for the most part.
Another precedent is the Schengen Agreement, the treaty that created an open-border policy between 26 European nations. The agreement helped participating nations’ police forces coordinate, improved commercial transportation networks and eliminated barriers to free movement within the Schengen Area.
The result was significant growth of the European economy. When European reactionaries called for the elimination of the Schengen Agreement at the start of the refugee crisis, economists warned that doing so would shrink the European economy by tens of billions of euros.
The main causes of the migration crisis on our southern border are economic, like poverty and unemployment in the global south, as well as violence (commonly fueled by American demand for narcotics) in parts of Central and South America.
These problems are compounded by a lack of innovation in migration controls in the Americas. A Schengen-style agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico would benefit all involved in several ways.
Open borders would boost their economies by facilitating free movement of labor in response to market forces, aiding industry and decreasing global poverty through higher employment and remittances back to immigrants’ families. It would free up the massive amounts of money that go into patrolling our borders and allow us to retool Customs and Border Patrol into a more effective law enforcement agency that works closely with our neighbors. It would lower violence by making migration of asylum-seekers much easier.
And, along with the further legalization of recreational drugs like marijuana, open borders would devastate drug cartels, along with many human traffickers, whose businesses would become obsolete.
We’re on the cusp of an era of unimaginably intense climate-related international migration, and our politicians have totally failed to resolve even our current immigration problems.
It’s time to go beyond enforcement methods and begin asking what international borders of the future will look like, and why we want them enforced the way we do.
What is a border when parts of a nation sink under the sea? Is it trespassing to cling to another’s lifeboat?
We must ask what America is and who it is for; why it’s become an exclusive club for those lucky enough to be born here and the few admitted entry; and finally, who exactly our arbitrary, inhumane border policies benefit, aside from the porcine demagogues who harvest votes from those they’ve terrified into recoiling from our founding motto: “From many, one.”