Teresa Hayter controversially argues that all nations should open their borders and allow free movement. Further, Teresa argues that abolition of immigration controls would mean a vast increase in prosperity and freedom. I disagree. This paper seeks to discuss the merits and demerits in immigration controls and settles on the position that immigration controls need to remain intact, at least for now.
As Hayter correctly observes, immigration has the potential of improving economic situations as immigrants are in many cases economic immigrants who have a positive contribution to the economy. As she observes, these immigrants have a net increase in the incomes of countries. A good example mentioned is the case of United Kingdom as is confirmed by Gordon Brown (then Finance Minister). In addition, free immigration would be an effective implementation of the international position in accordance with declarations and conventions case in point being the declaration of refugee rights. indeed, immigration could be a checker to dictatorships and poor leadership as people would tend to prefer proper and effective systems leaving otherwise uncoordinated countries to their own devices. Finally, as Hayter rightly observes, immigration would in overall lead to the free world which has been argued in several quarters as a determinant of prosperity.
However, as Hayter shouts her lungs out on the benefits of free immigration, one loudly inquires of the costs that she has chosen to ignore. In fact, in the current global position, free immigration could be the biggest facilitator to terrorism which continues to threaten world stability. In everyday the super powers such as America spend billions in securing either their territories or their citizens against terrorists’ acts and threats. This, they at times are compelled to extend to their allies, for instance, in the case of the United States, Israel comes into picture. A free immigration policy that adopts a blind approach would easily facilitate the movement of terrorists whose only desire is to cause untold misery to their adversaries. In addition, a free immigration policy would frustrate the state of accountability in which authorities have been able to account for their citizens’ presence at a place.
Secondly, free immigration could precipitate what in social sciences is called the tragedy of commons. This refers to the overuse and consequential depletion of resources that are common to everyone. How does this occur? The moment free immigration is allowed, all Tom, Dick and Harry would want to migrate to the relatively better positioned countries in terms of opportunities and social amenities. Hayter slightly recognizes this when she reports of the European Union’s fear that the populace from the poorer South would migrate to the richer North. Indeed, perhaps the reason why this did not materialize in full is because of the limited time. As the European Union opens up its area, more and more populations would prefer to settle in the fairer North as compared to the poorer South. This position could be worsened in cases of free immigration worldwide. This can be explained by the destitute situations in most third world countries with the higher numbers concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. A free immigration policy that is unchecked could see the proliferation of mass exoduses.
Over and above that the issue of national identity can be washed away as Hayter purport to do. First, it is improper and too simplistic to christen every proponent of nationality as racist. Indeed, Hayter appears to simplify a rather complex issue. Nationality is not merely defined by the race, it encompasses among others the sharing of historical origins, the language and at times values and character. The moment free immigration is allowed, all these are threatened hence in overall what Hayter’s opponents have call loss of national identity. The worlds would loss its uniqueness, seen in its diversity, and in place adopt a state of disorder and anarchy. For purposes of order and discipline, we need controls and streamlined systems to regulate immigration.
In conclusion, even in disagreeing with Hayter on the issue of free immigration, I do concur with the arguments that the strings need to be loosened. My disagreement arises in the extent of loosening for while Hayter suggests an extreme situation, this paper only prefers a limited loosening. There is indeed merit in employing the common sense towards immigration and allowing for prosperity that knows no boundaries. As Hayter observes, the entire world by virtue of having migrated in the character of their ancestors from East Africa, are products of immigrants. However, Hayter appears to have been overtaken by events for her common sense argument conveniently isolates contemporary yet critical factors which could frustrate the fruits in her preposition. One of the factors as mentioned before is the ever increasing terrorism and armed conflicts in selected parts of the world. While the idea of free immigration is interesting in theory, it is still alien in its totality to the current setup and needs to await numerous changes before a full implementation can be pursued.
Hayter, T. (2004). Open Borders - Second Edition: The Case Against Immigration Controls. New York: Pluto Press.