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A Borderless World: Dream or Nightmare?

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Research Paper on Imigration issue
in canada. Explained with examples.
And given philosophical point and pros and cons of opening borders to all imigrants.

A Borderless World: Dream or Nightmare?1
Daniel Hiebert
Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6T 1Z2, Email: [email protected]

Imagine there’s no countries, It isn’t hard to do. John Lennon (1971) The moral stance that global justice can be served by a world of open borders in which individuals are free to move wherever they wish presumes a world without borders, without states, without repressive regimes, without vast differences in the health, education and welfare services offered by governing authorities, and without vast differences in incomes and employment. In the absence of these conditions the noble vision becomes a nightmare… Myron Weiner (1996, p. 177) I enjoyed reading Harald Bauder’s plea for a world without immigration restrictions because it represents a fresh perspective, at least for geographers, on globalization and migration. I also appreciate the clarity of vision that Bauder offers, free of moral ambiguity and free of realpolitic. His stance is as simple as can be: remove all mobility restrictions because they are, by definition, associated with inequality. I do not challenge this point; entry restrictions are created by states for many reasons, and one of them is to defend the privilege of citizens relative to those living in other countries. However, in this brief note I wish to pose an argument against Bauder’s view based on two points. First, I believe he ignores politics by asserting that national ‘communities’ should not have the right to define their membership. Second, while migration restrictions are based on the protection of privilege, removing those restrictions would not end 1

© Daniel Hiebert, 2003.

A borderless world: Dream or nightmare


privilege. In fact, along with Weiner, I believe that such an effort could just as easily lead to mass harm as mass good. Above all, I do not think that complex issues like international migration are amenable to systems of absolute morality. I am inherently suspicious of universalism in all cases (which, ironically, is in itself a universalist statement!), but particularly so in the field of migration. Rules of entry are deeply political, created out of intricate processes that involve many voices and many interests. While it is easy to imagine a world without countries or borders, how exactly would this come to be? Let’s begin with the example of Canada used by Bauder. What would it take for Canada to decide to remove all immigration restrictions and, in effect, “take in all comers”. In a way this idea seems plausible since that was approximately the situation immediately after the formation of Canada as a nation state in 1867. It took the government of the new country two years to pass an immigration law and longer, of course, to establish the required infrastructure necessary to implement any restrictions. There was a moment, then, when entry was effectively free to all. Canada’s first rules prohibited entry to those with criminal records, people with disabilities, and those without financial resources to sustain themselves in a new country. By the end of the century restrictions were added to prevent migration from outside Europe, especially China. One could hardly imagine a more politically-incorrect set of rules, at least from the vantage point of our time. In the 20th century these regulations were progressively toughened and then in the 1960s dramatically altered to reflect economic objectives, as Bauder explains in his paper. But can the clock be turned back to 1867? How? Are Canadians ready to reconsider the whole idea of restricted entry? It would seem not. In one public opinion survey after another Canadians demonstrate that they support the immigration system... Show More

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