Strangers in Our Midst: The Political Philosophy of Immigration
Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2016
No sensible person without an ideological or racial commitment to open borders can witness the ongoing immigration crises plaguing the West and not be seriously concerned about the future. The evidence of the disastrous consequences of the importation of non-whites into historically white countries is so overwhelmingly obvious that the system is forced to work overtime to keep the average person in the dark.
Fortunately, there is an increasing number of voices challenging the elite consensus from various angles. Among them is David Miller, a professor of political theory at Oxford, who, in this recent book, from the perspective of political philosophy, makes a strong case for the validity of borders and the right of states to control them. Though he is a civic nationalist and therefore misses entirely the very crux of the issue—the preservation of the majority indigenous or settler populations as unique and worthy of existence without the necessity of further justification—his arguments are often intelligent, valuable, and, especially in this time of demographic anarchy-by-design, should be welcomed. Indeed, somewhat paradoxically, the greatest value of this book for White Nationalists in particular is that it presents some very strong arguments against open borders in a race-neutral (even anti-racist) fashion, using the language and basic moral assumptions of our enemies to dismantle their ludicrously naïve beliefs. However, this is not to say that this type of thinking will go unchallenged here. Nor will any of his other misguided beliefs, which increase in frequency as he moves away from international immigration and begins dealing with domestic issues.
In his introduction, the author contextualizes his broader argument by providing a brief overview of the dramatic shift in the pattern and perception of immigration in recent years. First, he dismisses those who deny that immigration is a cause for concern at all. To suggest that immigration causes few if any problems to the host society is to fail to think long-term. He notes that if all policy options are on the table (which necessarily includes open borders), coupled with the “natural” pull of extant diaspora communities and evidence indicating that a large percentage of the African and Middle Eastern population desires to migrate to the West, then we must assume that immigration could potentially increase dramatically (p. 3). Whatever one’s analysis of the current situation (pro- or anti-immigration), it would be foolish to base future policy on current immigration flows. Next, he describes the attitude of liberal states towards immigration in the mid-19th century: “states were regarded as having an unrestricted right either to accept immigrants or to refuse them entry as one aspect of their sovereignty, but in practice movement was often left unregulated” (p. 4). In times of increased immigration, moves were sometimes made to restrict newcomers to those categorized as desirable on various grounds. Once in the receiving country, immigrants were generally left to sink or swim on their own. He also adds that it was understood to be an “implication of the state’s right to sovereignty . . . that it could impose whatever conditions it liked on those seeking to enter, at least as long as these did not amount to brutal treatment” (pp. 4-5). This has, of course, changed dramatically in the ensuing century and a half.
Instead of a self-evidently justified prioritization of the interests of a state’s current citizens, “[s]tates are now seen as having positive duties to take in those whose basic rights are being threatened in the places where they currently live—refugees especially” (p. 6). Along with this new shift in the state’s concept of duty towards outsiders, the treatment of the newly arrived immigrants has also shifted from one of intense pressure to assimilate to “social norms that encourage many cultural flowers to bloom and that seek to remove barriers to opportunity for members of the minority culture” (p. 6). Moreover, these new social norms are often backed by the force of law. And Western countries are now usually welfare states, so rather than sinking or swimming on their own as in the past, immigrants take resources from social programs to which they have either not contributed or have contributed much less than natives. The author observes:
Immigrants now have to be taken in not just as future citizens, but as members of an elaborate scheme of resource distribution that relies upon its members adhering to principles of contribution (e.g., making a genuine effort to find work) and principles of equality (e.g., seeing to it that jobs are given to the most qualified candidates, regardless of gender, race, or religion) (p. 9).
He then notes that evidence indicates that welfare states function on high levels of trust among the citizenry and that as societies become more ethnically and culturally diverse, their levels of social trust decline (p. 10).
With this broad context outlined, he begins his analysis. In chapter two, “Cosmopolitanism, Compatriot Partiality, and Human Rights,” Dr. Miller addresses first the question of cosmopolitanism. Since it is a concept that recurs throughout the work it is worth quoting at length his commentary on its meaning:
. . . pinning down exactly what it means to be a cosmopolitan is a difficult task. Indeed some suggest that the term is so amorphous that it no longer serves any useful justifying function in debates about global justice. One source of confusion is that “cosmopolitanism” can refer to an identity, a political proposal, or a moral standpoint: it is the third of these that will concern us here. In the first case, a cosmopolitan is someone who professes to have no loyalties to particular places or cultures but declares himself free to pick and choose the best that is on offer anywhere in the world to which he has access. His only identity is as a human being among other human beings. Political cosmopolitanism, by contrast, can take various forms. One is belief in and advocacy for world government: the idea that supreme political authority should rest with a single body that represents all human beings, albeit that below this there can exist many subsidiary forms of regional and national government. Another is the belief that in political activities people should regard themselves as “citizens of the world” who pursue causes regardless of where the targets of their activity happen to be located . . . Political cosmopolitanism often goes hand in hand with the third conception, moral cosmopolitanism, but they are nonetheless distinct. Moral cosmopolitanism can be defined simply as the belief in the equal worth of all human beings . . . According to the strongest interpretation, it implies that the fundamental duties we owe to our fellow human beings are exactly the same regardless of the relationship in which we stand toward them . . . Any form of partiality, which of course includes showing special concern for one’s compatriots, on this reading contravenes the cosmopolitan principle of equal moral worth (pp. 22-23).
He notes quite correctly that a consistent strong cosmopolitan would be required to also renounce privileging even friends and family members and thus few would—or could—actually practice what they preach. He then introduces the concept of weak cosmopolitanism, which is, broadly speaking, merely humanitarianism—some concern for the effects of any given action on others with whom one has little or nothing in common. But this is far too vague to provide real-world guidance, particularly in political matters. As the author writes, it “does not rule out anything much at all beyond repugnant ideologies that regard some human lives as of no value” (p. 24).
Strong cosmopolitans attempt to counter the rather obvious impossibility of their position by referring to “the idea of a moral division of labor” (p. 24) by which they mean a system (presumably global) in which one can justifiably show more concern for one’s family, friends, or fellow citizens as long as others are being cared for to the same degree by their particular families, friends, or fellow citizens. But this is simply not how things work. As the author notes, “[t]he loyalty we feel toward our families and our friends is unconditional—meaning not that it knows no bounds, but that it isn’t conditional on other people also being shown the same loyalty” (p. 25). Additionally, it is the height of absurdity to assume that in a world of vastly different economic conditions, cultures, and forms of government, that everyone could receive or be required to receive the exact same degree of attention and concern.
Instead of the idea of a moral division of labor, Dr. Miller proposes the idea of associative obligations, which he defines as “obligations that we have simply in virtue of the relationships in which we stand to other people rather than as part of some universal scheme” (pp. 25-26). We can already see how this is going to fit into his defense of borders. He writes: “if I don’t believe that I owe more to my friend than I would owe to a passing acquaintance, then my relation to that person is not in fact one of friendship but something else” (p. 26). How are compatriots involved in associative obligations? First, through the economy and the welfare state. Second, as the beneficiaries of rights and bearers of duties as citizens “including a right of political participation that allows them collectively to control and shape the scheme as a whole” (p. 26). Third, as people possessing a distinct national identity. Anticipating the objections his third form of association will raise due to the fashionable distaste for national identity, the author asks whether national identity is intrinsically valuable. He believes it is: it produces an emotional attachment that is not produced merely by economic and political relationships (p. 27); bonds are created by national identity that transcend both institutions and practices as well as time—these bonds often stretch into the distant past and are assumed to extend well into the future (pp. 27-28); and national identity attaches the people to the actual land “whose special features often contribute in an important way to the identity itself, whether these are distinctive landscapes, buildings of historic significance, or sites where key events in the nation’s history took place” (p. 28). He then adds something of great importance and which should be kept in mind every time another nation-wrecking parasite tries to tear down another statue of a white historical figure: “where citizens also share a national identity, their association has the further feature that they can explain why they belong together and why they should exercise their citizenship in this particular place [italics mine]” (p. 28). This raises questions about which rights and responsibilities can or should be afforded to newly arrived immigrants, of course, and the author deals with such questions later in the book. But his idea of associative obligations “shows that justice permits us to do less for would-be immigrants than we are required to do for citizens” (p. 30). However, he does not believe that doing nothing is the answer and proceeds based on the assumption of weak cosmopolitanism, i.e. that all human beings share an equal moral worth.
What obligations do people owe to other political communities? Here the discussion moves to human rights, citizenship rights, and the tension between the two. Dr. Miller writes:
Human rights are the rights that people must have if they are securely to have the opportunity to meet their basic needs; citizenship rights provide the conditions under which a person can participate fully in the social and political life of the society to which they belong. The second set of rights builds upon and extends the first, but we need to keep them apart because human rights potentially create international obligations whereas citizenship rights do not (p. 31).
The author says that human rights fall into four categories: first, the rights to “the material means to live a minimally decent life, such as rights to food, shelter, and medicine”; second, “rights to specific forms of freedom, such as freedom of speech and freedom of occupation, that allow them to engage in the core human activities according to their own predilections and capacities”; third, “rights that enable people to form social relationships with others, such as freedom of association and the right to marry and raise a family”; and fourth, “other rights that do not correspond so directly to human needs, but whose purpose is to protect people’s enjoyment of the rights in the first three categories by providing them with safeguards” (p. 32). He emphasizes that although he has accepted the premise of weak cosmopolitanism—that the interests of others should be considered before acting—and that human rights can create obligations, they do not necessarily create obligations. There are those who believe that not violating the human rights of others (negative duties) is sufficiently just, whereas some argue that positive steps must be taken to ensure human rights (positive duties). Negative duties benefits from being clear and equally applicable to all whereas positive duties are more ambiguous: who exactly is required to help and to what extent (pp. 33-34)?
The author notes that a state’s first responsibility is the human rights of its own citizens and if it fails to ensure them it can be considered an illegitimate state though there is no question as to where the responsibility lies (p. 34). But if this state cannot or will not protect the human rights of its citizens, upon whom does the obligation fall? Any intervention, from aid packages to regime change, potentially imposes a great burden on an outside political community, so figuring out who should be responsible is important (pp. 34-35). Sometimes a single state with close historical ties to the illegitimate state will be the obvious choice. But in most cases responsibility will be seen to fall upon a larger group of states in the forms of things such as equal cost-sharing based on population or GDP, a principle that will come up later in the book (p. 35). But the two basic competing positions regarding a state’s obligations to other political communities are: as a matter of justice, any state with the ability to do so must protect human rights even without international assistance (p. 36); or, that a state is only obligated to do what “a fair distribution of responsibility demands” and, should it desire to do more than required, it would be obligated to get the consent of its citizens before “devoting resources that could otherwise be used to promote social justice at home to the cause of human rights protection abroad” (p. 36).
He ends the chapter by suggesting that “[w]hat weak cosmopolitanism demands, in cases where human rights are not at stake, is that if people make claims on us—claims for something that serves their interests—we should consider them seriously and be ready if necessary to provide reasons for refusal. Indeed if granting the request is virtually costless, we should always accept it” (p. 37). To do otherwise would be to treat the person making the claim as though he were of no significance which would, of course, violate the principle of weak cosmopolitanism.
In chapter three, entitled “Open Borders,” Dr. Miller discusses the common arguments for open borders. He begins with the notion that the “earth as a whole is the common property of all the human beings who inhabit it, from which some draw the corollary that it is wrong to refuse anyone access to part of what they own” (p. 39). He notes first that such an idea implies a borderless world due to the fact that a “subgroup of commoners [a territorial state] cannot fence off a common and prevent the rest from having access . . . unless the state has been authorized to do so by the whole of humanity” (p. 42). Another problem is that there is no world governing body by which to decide problems of land use and resource allocation which would lead to the famous “tragedy of the commons” in which “overuse devastates the object that is jointly owned” (p. 42). Finally, there is the claim that every living human can claim a percentage of the earth’s resources as his own private property (p. 43). A state wanting to close its borders would have to show that it was not denying any claimant access to his share of resources before doing so. Another interesting problem arises from this approach: it is likely that within a given state certain citizens would hold more than their fair share of land and others less, so do those who hold less have a right to deny entry to would-be immigrants in order to increase their chances of getting their quota (p. 43)? Such a question hints at common anti-immigration talking points but from a very different angle. The author then notes that in response to such objections, proponents of world ownership will switch from equal shares of land to equal shares of value. As an example he uses the roughly equal value of a square meter of land in Manhattan and a square acre of land in the Australian outback (p. 43). But this too becomes increasingly complex because “it is impossible to disentangle the ‘unimproved’ value of land from the value it has acquired as a result of past and present human activity” as well as resource access (p. 44). As such, the question becomes not really one of world ownership but of equality of opportunity, which is a separate issue.
The argument for open borders based on equal opportunity is that those in wealthy countries have opportunities that those in poor countries do not and, despite whatever other reasons may exist for the variations in living standards, the removal of immigration controls is a step towards remedying this injustice. As the author notes, it takes the widely accepted liberal principle of domestic equal opportunity and extends it globally, i.e. like race or sex, the society into which one is born should not have any bearing on one’s range of opportunities (p. 45). The author argues that this principle is possible domestically because there are ways to measure the opportunities open to any given individual and “that the factors that determine opportunity are susceptible to political control” (pp. 45-46). Neither of these are likely to be possible in the international sphere. Cultural differences and varying economic models would make such determinations almost impossible. The author also notes that opportunity is to a large extent based on economic growth and public services, which are often shifting (p. 47). He also points out that it is safe to assume that most immigrants will come from poor countries to rich countries and that those who do so will likely be selected from advantaged backgrounds. This will narrow the opportunity gap for these individuals but increase it for their former countrymen (p. 48).
Finally, he tackles the human rights argument for open borders. He notes that it makes no appeal to inequalities but rather to the notion that all humans are entitled to “a range of freedoms, opportunities, and resources that are sufficient for them to live decent lives” (p. 49). He also points out that these rights have been codified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966 and in neither document is there any mention of a general right to immigrate. This leaves proponents of the human rights argument unable to appeal to international law (p. 49). Next he clarifies their actual position: “[the human right to immigrate] must be understood as a right of all human beings, whatever their circumstances, held against all states to enter and settle on their territory” (p. 49). He lists three strategies used to justify the concept of a human right to immigrate: the direct strategy (the justification of immigration as a human right based on the same grounds used to justify human rights generally); the instrumental strategy (the justification of immigration as a human right based on proving that other accepted human rights cannot be protected without a human right to immigrate); and the cantilever strategy (the justification of immigration as a human right as a logical extension of an existing right) (pp. 49-50). Since the phrase “human rights” is used casually as a category for almost all liberal or Left-leaning political desires these days, it is worth spending some time on each of these strategies.
In describing the direct strategy, Dr. Miller reiterates the basic definition of human rights and states that behind all theories of their origins lies the notion that “people cannot live lives that we would recognize as decent or fully human unless they are protected from various forms of oppression and deprivation, and this necessary protection is what a set of human rights provides” (p. 50). But, he writes, “[i]t is important that the rights that make up the set are broadly consistent with one another in order that we do not include rights whose exercise would interfere with other rights we wish to recognize” (p. 50). So to establish a human right to immigrate using the direct strategy, one would have to demonstrate that immigration is necessary for humans to lead decent or fully human lives and that “it would not conflict with other rights we might regard as equally or more important” (p. 50). But, he notes, whereas there are lifestyles that do require movement across borders (e.g. nomads), these are so specific that to apply such a standard would create an impossibly large number of rights. Something broader than movement across borders must be utilized, which leads to the concept of a human right to freedom of movement, which is indeed something that has been acknowledged (p. 51). Those who argue that the human right to freedom of movement must extend across borders argue that a person may have a “deep interest” in travelling across borders, such as reuniting with a lover, practicing a religion, pursuing political goals, or exchanging ideas, which are necessary for his well-being and, which, if frustrated, would be a violation of his human rights (p. 51). Again, the author notes, such things are too specific to justify being included in the category of rights. To use one of his examples, I may want to study Sutrayana practices in Tibet but this does not mean that Tibetans are obligated to waste their time or resources indulging “an ignorant Westerner” (pp. 51-52). Preferences are not rights. Which leads to the instrumental strategy.
Those who argue from this point of view suggest that immigration is necessary for the protection of other recognized human rights in the way that the right to a lawyer is necessary to guarantee other civil rights in court (p. 52). The idea is that immigration provides protection from human rights violations. But international law already recognizes the human right to exit one’s country. Yet it does not follow that there is a corresponding right to enter any country, only that there is at least one country to which someone seeking escape must be able to go. Dr. Miller writes:
Although having an unrestricted right to immigrate might be seen as providing the best protection possible for other human rights, what matters here is ensuring an adequate level of protection, this limitation is a feature of human rights generally: the right to legal representation in court does not mean being provided with the services of the highest-paid or most eloquent barrister in the country, but simply having access to someone who is competent to defend you (pp.52-53).
Additionally, if the preservation of human rights is the goal of open borders advocates, they must acknowledge the concept of “brain-drain.” Very poor countries regularly lose their brightest people which leaves those left behind with less access to services necessary for the preservation of their human rights. As an illustration, he mentions the case of Haiti, which has lost 85% of its trained population in this way (p. 53). It is very hard to make the case that the sum total of global human rights has been expanded through an increase in the number of Haitian professionals living in Florida.
Finally, he arrives at the cantilever argument by which the right of the free movement of people within borders is logically extended across borders. Those who argue this believe that if it is important that people be allowed to move feely within a country then there is no reason they should not be allowed to move freely between countries. The author points to two reasons why these are not analogous. The first is that “the costs that unrestricted freedom of movement may bring with it are smaller and easier to contain in the domestic case” (p. 54). He reminds the reader that no proposed human right can infringe on any already recognized human right. Movement of people within the domestic sphere creates costs—the provision of housing, medical care, jobs, services, etc.—which potentially displace those already there (p. 54). But there are ways that a state can remedy any ill effects of such things without infringing on human rights, even reversing the flow of movement if need be through the creation of economic opportunities elsewhere. This is not the case on the international level. Liberal countries are obligated by their own commitment to human rights to treat those within their borders with adequate fairness and so, once inside, there is little the state can do to remedy the harmful effects of immigration on its citizens: ” . . . border controls may be the only weapon that a state has to prevent unwanted migration impacting on the rights of its own citizens” (p. 55). Secondly, he argues that domestic freedom of movement enables individuals and groups to avoid state-sponsored discrimination and ghettoization whereas if a state decides to discriminate against a particular group of immigrants, “it does not prevent the group in question from seeking to exercise their human rights elsewhere; the group is not trapped in the way an internal minority may be” (p. 56).
Chapter four is entitled “Closed Borders.” In it he discusses what precisely gives states the right to decide who to allow into their countries. Interestingly, he is tepid towards the common argument that it is a function purely of state sovereignty. He believes that this takes for granted that the sovereign state is the best form of government and that it also takes for granted that the authority of a sovereign state can be directed at outsiders (e.g. excluding immigrants) without further justification. He believes instead in the concept of territorial jurisdiction: “having rights of jurisdiction over a given territory implies having the right to control the movement of people in and out of that territory, so that where a state can legitimately claim jurisdiction it is also entitled to exclude immigrants if it so wishes” (pp. 58-59). He lists three conditions that he believes must be met for a state to be able to claim territorial jurisdiction: first, “it must maintain social order and protect the human rights of the inhabitants to a sufficiently high degree” (p. 59); second, “the state must represent the inhabitants of the territory” (p. 59); and third, “the people whom the state represents should themselves have the right to occupy the territory in question. This means in particular that a state cannot establish territorial rights by expelling most of the rightful occupants of a region and replacing them with its own subjects . . .” (p. 60). He then reiterates his belief that legitimacy is established through national identity and adds that with territorial jurisdiction comes “at last two further rights: the right to control and use the resources that the territory contains, and the right to control the movement of goods and people across its borders” (pp. 60-61).
Concurrent with the right to control the movement of people across borders, is the idea of self-determination, by which he means “the right of a democratic public to make a wide range of policy choices within the limits set by human rights” (p. 62). Levels of public expenditure on housing, schools, and hospitals, for example, are crucial decisions for a functioning liberal society and so they are entirely justified in being concerned about how the rate of immigration and the characteristics of the immigrants will affect such things (are the immigrants uneducated? are they in good health?): ” . . . immigration control is an essential level in the hands of the demos. Deprived of that lever, it loses control of those expenditures, unless it decides to abandon liberal principles and deprive the incomers of these essential services” (p. 62). Furthermore, as more immigrants arrive the “self” in self-determination changes so that the long-term planning and forward thinking inherent in national identity are threatened. He writes: “We can make long-term plans, such as creating protected areas for endangered species of plants or animals or investing in infrastructure whose benefits will mainly be reaped by our children. But this planning will be thwarted if changes in the composition of the citizen body mean that these decisions are later reversed” (p. 63). There are, of course, natural generational shifts in any given society so that changes do occur but succeeding generations will largely have been socialized and educated in similar ways. For immigrants, this is not the case. Not only do they usually come from radically different cultures (and, more importantly, races) but they are now explicitly encouraged to celebrate and maintain their distinctiveness rather than assimilate. With each passing year, the national “self” becomes increasingly unrecognizable to the majority populations of countries experiencing mass immigration.
Dr. Miller notes again that there is evidence that “cultural divisions among the members of a political community may reduce both interpersonal trust and trust in political institutions” (p. 64). For him, this causes two serious problems: it causes a reduction in public services and broad concern for social justice is replaced by “group-specific demands” (p. 64). Any discussion of immigration into which these costs do not factor is remarkably short-sighted. He makes a final point in this part of the chapter in regard to immigration and the environment: borders are an effective tool for reducing population growth and curbing global warming. Just as environmental treaties are effective only when agreed upon by states and whose terms are enforced domestically, the state is the best unit of population control. With open borders, no incentives could be placed upon individuals to restrict family size in anyway, for example. In response to those who object by saying that immigrants who move from poor to rich countries tend to have smaller families than they would have in their countries of origin, he writes:
. . . if population growth matters mainly because of its implication for global warming and resource depletion, immigrants who adopt Western lifestyles will consume more and induce more carbon emissions through their demand for energy: so the net environment effect of migrating may be negative even if family sizes are smaller as a result (p. 66).
The remainder of the chapter deals with challenges to the arguments presented. The first is that liberal democracies are plural societies which have always absorbed immigrants without “falling apart or losing their democratic credentials” (p. 67). Ultimately, his conclusion is the obvious one: what matters is “the kind and scale of cultural diversity that immigration will introduce” (p. 68). The second challenge is to the idea of an inherent value in political self-determination. He offers decolonization as an example of the principles that underlie its clear value. He writes:
. . . why have people been so eager to throw off colonial rule and be governed by those they regard as their compatriots even when there was little evidence that the quality of their governance would actually improve as a result? Such eagerness makes sense if you think that it is better to be governed by somebody who shares your aims and values even if they are not particularly effective at implementing them. At least you can identify with the decisions that are taken whatever the results turn out to be (p. 69).
Finally, there are those who argue that closed borders amount to coercion on the part of the state. He rejects this because prevention is not coercion. He writes:
The immigrant is being prevented from doing something—entering the United States, for example—that he may very much want to do, but he is not being forced to do anything else in particular. He is left with all the options that are available to him in his home country, together with the options that are open in other countries that will take him in. The U.S. authorities are not trying to direct his life, even though they may be frustrating his wishes by excluding him (p. 74).
Chapter five is entitled “Refugees.” The author defines refugees as “people whose human rights cannot be protected except by moving across a border, whether the reason is state persecution, state incapacity, or prolonged natural disasters” (p. 83). Based on principles discussed earlier, the author acknowledges that states have a duty to protect refugees and that, in the majority of cases, no one state will have any unique responsibility towards any particular refugee. So why does the state which is approached bear the burden? Because by showing up at the border, the refugee establishes a physical connection to the state and his fate is now in its hands. The state is obligated to at least establish the legitimacy of his claim. However, since refugees often choose countries in which to seek asylum for reasons that have little or nothing to do with their immediate needs, is it fair for one particularly nice country to bear the entire burden of asylum-seekers? Dr. Miller argues that refugees are entitled to asylum but, because there is no right to immigration as such, refugees may be justly transferred from their country of choice to somewhere else as long as this third location protects their human rights. This could be managed in three ways: first, the establishment of “an international system whereby refugees are assigned to states by criteria that are agreed to be fair, taking account of the numbers involved” (p. 87); second, the continuation of the “system whereby states are obliged to respond to asylum claims lodged at their door, but to permit and indeed encourage transfers between states by means of side payments from sending to receiving countries, so that states could avoid having to take in more refugees than they would wish to admit” (p. 87); a system “to allow states to control refugee flows by making it more or less difficult for asylum seekers to reach their territory” (p. 87). The latter, he notes, is the closest to what is currently practiced.
The first method—an international system of refugee sorting—suffers from the impracticality of the creation of an international authority over borders as well as the impracticality of determining the correct or fair number of refugees per state (p. 87). The second method—financial arrangements—has problems as well: it would “not eliminate arbitrariness over which countries are approached by asylum seekers, with ‘popular’ countries having either to accept greater numbers or to pay more in transfer fees” (p. 88). Critics of this proposal argue that it commodifies human beings and, worse still, would attach a value to particular refugees, essentially putting a monetary value on how unwanted one group of people is in relation to another (pp. 88-89). But this latter objection brings the author to the topic of the criteria states can legitimately use when deciding which refugees to admit if they are indeed going to set quotas.
Dr. Miller considers four possible reasons for selection: first, whether the refugee will need permanent settlement (p. 89); second, whether the receiving state played a causal role in the need of the refugee to escape his country (p. 89); third, whether or not the refugee is likely to be an economic benefit to the receiving society (p. 89); and fourth, “[t]he degree of cultural affinity between the refugee and host political community (p. 89). The first two present no real problems; they are obviously relevant and carry no social baggage. The author believes, however, that the third and fourth reasons are problematic. He believes that potential economic contributions should not matter unless the state is offering something more than asylum to the refugee, e.g. “permanent settlement to someone who does not otherwise qualify for it” (p. 91). The question of cultural affinity is, as one would expect, a bit tougher. He does not believe that a state can justify taking into account cultural affinity when setting a refugee policy. Ultimately, he prioritizes international law despite his repeatedly stated beliefs in national identity, the erosion of social trust caused by an influx of different cultures, democracy, and a state’s primary obligations to its citizenry.
Chapter six is entitled “Economic Migrants.” These are, of course, far greater in number than refugees and present different problems. Having dismissed the notion that immigration is a human right, the author argues that only mutual advantage can justify economic migration. He begins by listing three broad admissions policies states can follow: unconditional and permanent admission, conditional admission, and temporary admission. Those who argue that all immigrants should have the opportunity for full citizenship believe, as the Jewish political theorist Michael Walzer wrote, and whom the author quotes: “Men and women are either subject to the state’s authority, or they are not; and if they are subject, they must be given a say, and ultimately an equal say, in what that authority does . . .” (p. 97). The temporary worker is a good illustration of the problems encountered when wrestling with this topic: temporary workers, by the above logic, would not exist. The author believes that this category of worker is not inherently unjust as long as their basic human and civil rights are protected. While it is true that they enjoy far fewer rights than do citizens, they are compensated by freedom from civic duties. All of this, the author believes, can be made to work fairly for all involved (including citizens, whom he acknowledges often feel threatened by such programs) by transparent public policy. He rejects the notion that all immigrants should be allowed full citizenship but he insists on fairness, rights (including worker protection), and transparency.
He next moves on to the question of how a state decides which economic migrants to allow to enter its borders. He begins with the question of race and religion. As is well-known, immigration policies throughout the Western world until about a century ago favored whites of one variety or another but now this would be considered the height of injustice—or to use Jewish parlance, “unspeakable.” Here he turns once again to international law (specifically on Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) but finds its prohibition of discrimination based on race, sex, and religion (among other things) to be lacking because there are plenty of examples of discrimination based on such things which are clearly not violations of human rights, e.g. an all-woman short list of political candidates or a church which confines its membership to those of its own faith (p. 103). He finds it more satisfying to argue that racial or religious restrictions on immigration can be seen as an injustice to existing citizens. “By discriminating in this way, the state appears to be labeling these people as second-class citizens” (p. 104). For someone who is so methodical and articulate with his other analyses, it is somewhat surprising that the mere appearance of engaging in a behavior without actually having done so is enough to justify ignoring the volumes of empirical evidence that demonstrate that mixed race and/or multicultural societies are more dysfunctional by virtually all metrics than are monoracial and/or monocultural societies. To be fair, however, he does explicitly state that this objection would not apply to religiously or ethnically homogeneous societies (p. 104). This does not absolve him from answering for the human rights violations of whites around the world who are experiencing record levels of non-white crime due to the influx of people who would technically fit the into the category of economic migrants. He digs his hole deeper later when he writes that “selection by race or national background is unjustifiable, since these attributes cannot be linked (except by wholly spurious reasoning) to any goals that a democratic state might legitimately wish to pursue” (p. 106). Perhaps after one hundred pages of his book, he has forgotten that, by his own admission, a state that will not protect the human rights of its citizens when it has the capacity to do so might be considered a failed state or that one of the requirements for a state to claim territorial jurisdiction is through the maintenance of social order. He might also want to explain in what ways the demographic goals of Western countries a century ago were illegitimate and how precisely he has retroactively subtracted them from the category of democratic states. What were they? Who were those people?
He then turns to exclusion based on political views or cultural background. Here he is slightly more reasonable (he allows for some restrictions) but not much: “it seems that selection on political grounds would be justifiable only in cases where immigrants with illiberal or undemocratic views were applying in sufficient numbers that their presence might create violent social conflicts or disrupt the working of democratic institutions” (p. 107). He observes that liberal democracies do not require all of their members to share their beliefs and that it is wrong to assume that immigrants’ beliefs are immutable (p. 106). But he has already expressed the belief that citizen’s rights should be prioritized over those of immigrants, so on what grounds should a state accept one single Islamist when to do so carries a demonstrable risk? And were he to be shown evidence that immigrants’ political views are far more immutable than he assumes, would he alter his opinion? Does he think that these immigrants will not have families and spread whatever beliefs they hold to their children? And were he to be shown evidence that violent social conflict was linked to racial diversity, would he alter his opinion on racial restrictions?
In chapter seven, “The Rights of Immigrants,” Dr. Miller deals with the treatment of immigrants in the receiving society. He argues that with territorial jurisdiction comes the right to decide who crosses a state’s borders but it also carries the responsibility of guaranteeing the rights of everyone who enters, even “irregular migrants” (illegal immigrants). The author argues that conditional amnesty is the most sensible solution to this problem. He does not see the illegal immigrant as a criminal but recognizes that the integrity of the immigration system is important enough to warrant consequences for “former wrongdoing” (p. 126). One idea he suggests is “part-time military or civilian service for a suitable period of time” which, although a distasteful idea to some, would provide benefits far in excess of the cost of the punishment (p. 126). He believes that illegal immigrants should be counted as social members of the society and as such be given a chance to work towards full citizenship so that “the society is not permanently caste-divided between citizens and strangers” (p. 126). There is a far easier way to guarantee this though: commit to and fully enforce the principle of state obligation to its citizens, policies which strengthen national identity, the right to control who crosses international borders—that is to say, some of the things the author himself so eloquently described just a chapter or two earlier. And, of course, some things the author does not mention: deportations and racial restrictions.
He also discusses the question of citizenship tests. He believes they are valuable because: first, they ensure that the test-taker knows the national language (p. 128); second, they help to emphasize the seriousness of citizenship to the prospective citizen, especially when accompanied by a ceremony (p. 128); and third, the test-taker will know what the society expects of him politically, even if he does not necessarily believe the same things (p. 128). Should there be any further demands, such as an integration requirement? The author says no, because there is a danger that applicants will be “selected or rejected on the basis of how far they look and sound like native citizens” (p. 128). Again, the author’s previous meticulous argumentation is shed in favor of emotion and social fashion. There is, for example, every reason to believe that an applicant who looks and sounds like a native citizen would be the very best immigrant possible among a range of choices. But for no rational reason whatsoever this is unacceptable to him (and plenty of others like him) and so a few questions and an oath are all that native citizens can expect as safeguards before being socially and legally obligated to count as “brothers” these foreign , mysterious, and odd-looking newcomers.
Chapter eight is entitled “Integrating Immigrants.” Dr. Miller distinguishes between social integration, civic integration, and cultural integration. Social integration requires regular social integration across a wide variety of spaces (p. 132). Civic integration is the sharing of a set of principles concerning social and political life, even if those sharing these principles differ in specific beliefs (p. 133). Cultural integration involves having a shared culture or identifying with the same religion, city, or nation (p. 133). The author sees obvious value in the first two forms of integration. Social integration helps immigrant communities by linking them to networks of aid and support as well as boosting social trust. Civic integration equips immigrants with the linguistic, social, and political skills that will enable them to take full advantage of the society they are joining” (p. 136). Additionally, it helps to eliminate residual practices from the immigrants’ native lands which are unacceptable or illegal in the new home such as “punishment of apostasy” (p. 137). It also helps immigrant children because such knowledge is commonly a part of the school curriculum.
Cultural integration is the obvious thorny issue. It is said to be oppressive and unnecessary. Many believe that the state’s basic policy should be one of liberal, hands-off, multiculturalism (pp. 141-42). Again, he approaches the value of integration first from the immigrants’ perspective. Cultural integration will demystify national events and institutions. He even suggests that it will decrease their fear of accidentally giving offense to natives (he provides no evidence whatsoever that this is an actual concern) and writes that they “may also want to change [the] societal culture in certain ways or add to it new elements of their own . . . but to do that they need to know first what they are aiming to change” (p. 144). He also notes that cultural integration will make the other forms of integration easier.
From the native perspective, cultural integration allows immigrants to more fully identify with the society and to “adopt its national identity as their own” (p. 144). However, in the very next sentence he writes: “Certainly that identity must adjust in order to acknowledge their presence: the historical narratives that citizens adopt to explain who they are must now include the fact of immigration and cultural diversity that results from that” (p. 145). Notice that the immigrants are said to have adopted the national identity when in fact they have not. And the natives must now become a different people. Indeed, their previous history was a malleable “narrative” whereas their new history—the one with immigration and cultural diversity—is a hard “fact.” The author then writes that “a shared national identity is a resource that can allow a society to solve collective action problems, pursue policies of social justice, and function more effectively as a democracy” (p. 145). He adds that “we are disposed to sympathize with, help, trust, and take responsibility for those with whom we feel we have something in common, and a sense of identity creates this feeling of likeness even with people with whom we have no direct contact” (p. 145). Both statements are true. However, there is little to no real evidence that this actually happens in multiracial and/or multicultural societies. But even if there were, there could be absolutely no question that the more people had in common with each other, the more successful the society would be and so it would be entirely rational to pursue racial and cultural homogeneity via immigration policy.
He ends this chapter with a discussion of religion and integration. He begins by discussing arguments by those such as the philosopher Martha Nussbaum (a convert to Judaism who plays the part exceedingly well) who suggest that “where a state grants precedence to a particular religion such as Christianity . . . it violates the liberal requirement that all citizens be treated with equal respect” (p. 146). Nussbaum cites crucifixes in Italian schools as examples of government-sanctioned religious symbols that “threaten the equal standing of citizens in the public realm” (p. 146). The author asks whether this means that only Catholics can be real Italians. Would French government subsidies of French language film marginalize immigrants? What about the British government distributing free copies of Shakespeare to school children? The answer, although he does not say so, is, of course, yes. A quick internet search would likely reveal that such things have already been heatedly discussed in editorials authored by women with names sounding much like “Martha Nussbaum.”
In any case, Dr. Miller proposes three conditions by which to preserve the equal standing for minority groups: first, “the state must ensure that opportunities, whether economic, educational or political, are not restricted by virtue of membership in a religious or ethnic group, except of course where the group’s own culture is the source of the restriction” (p. 146); second, “where the state is already in the business of supporting particular groups, including cultural ones, it must do so in an even-handed manner. . . if a liberal state subsidizes string quartets, it must also be willing to subsidize steel bands and mariachi groups” (p. 147); third, “in the realm of public culture, all groups have an equal claim to be listened to when an existing practice is being reviewed or new departures are being contemplated . . . This might mean anything from the design of the national flag to the content of the public broadcasting media to the position of the established church . . .” (p. 147). Despite these humorous recipes for social collapse, the author does finally admit that Muslims in Italy will just have to begrudgingly accept crucifixes in classrooms and not build their mosques taller than any nearby churches.
Included here is a long quote from the conclusion summarizing the author’s position on immigration, because, in fairness to him, the very well-argued and valuable first half of the book is nearly forgotten by the time one finishes eye-rolling one’s way through the muck of the latter half:
So what should be done? Essentially what is needed is a clear policy on immigration that can be set out and defended publicly, with all the relevant data about how the policy is working also in the public domain. It should cover the overall numbers being accepted, how different categories of immigrants are treated, the criteria of selection being used, and what is expected of immigrants by way of integration. This needs to be accomplished by strong border controls, and rapid assessment of the status of those who are admitted provisionally, as asylum seekers or as a temporary protection measure. No one can pretend that border walls or fences are pleasant things to witness, but if citizens are going to embrace the state’s immigration policy, they need to be reassured that the policy is going to be effectively enforced and that the people who are allowed to enter are the people who meet the criteria that it lays down. If one part of the policy covers temporary migration, then it must be transparent that people who are included in the program do actually leave when the program finishes (p. 160).
One cannot but help to notice how vastly different is the quality of the author’s work on international issues and domestic issues. When handling the colder, more abstract world of migrant flows and international law, he is thorough and thoughtful; when engaging with the politically-heated, socially-contentious world of domestic politics, he softens as he tries to navigate both consciously through the minefield of political correctness and subconsciously through decades of deeply ingrained self-hatred. His former precision disappears, and he resorts to emotional assertions and contradictions. It is almost sad to witness.
As for his main argument, one hopes that Dr. Miller will someday write a similar book without accepting the premise of weak cosmopolitanism. At the very least, the book’s second half would be far more courageous and interesting. But the reader is left unsatisfied with his lack of a deeper rationale for things such as having to justify state policy decisions to every Juan, Kwame, and Mohammad who comes calling. One is also left wanting to hear much more about his ambivalence concerning the concept of sovereign states. Nevertheless, this book is recommended. It provides a great deal of “safe for work” pro-border control talking points and can even be shared with any liberal friends one might have left (after either “accidentally” spilling coffee on—or cutting out—the last 70 pages, of course).
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