Borders. They exist. They matter.

border

No matter how much I try I can’t get my head around the common leftist (and libertarian) delusion that national borders should be abolished and completely free movement of people allowed across the world. At the risk of infantilising the argument – though maybe that’s what it takes for some to comprehend the issues involved and their implications – nation states are like houses: houses have walls and doors, not just to protect residents from the elements, but also to give them control as to who they let in and who they refuse. Friends and family are usually, but not always, OK; door-to-door salespeople rarely; burglars never of our own free will. Ditto with random strangers who walk in from the street and want to have a sleep on your couch, check out the content of your fridge or organise a party in your backyard. Just because nation states are much bigger and much more populous than my or your house, doesn’t mean the principle is any different. Sure, there are a lot more couches to crash on, and the fridge is much much bigger, but your generosity and compassion to strangers off the street is cheap, as it’s never your own couch or your fridge; someone else usually bears the cost. It’s not that I don’t want to anyone to come in to my house, but I want the ones I let in to pay rent, follow the house rules, clean their dishes, and fix the plumbing. I don’t expect any different treatment when it’s my turn to visit other people’s houses.

Two stories today remind us why borders are important:

Mexican officials have aided a “Holy Week” caravan of over 1,000 migrants headed to the U.S. border to demand Easter asylum, according to reports.

Mostly Hondurans, they posted celebration videos on Facebook and chanted “We are migrants. We are not criminals. We are workers.”

That’s all nice, but if you are a refugee, you can claim asylum in Guatemala, Belize or Mexico. The Refugee Convention was put in place to protect those fleeing persecution, not to enable them to shop around for the best and most attractive destination. And the fact that you are not a criminal but a migrant and a worker is irrelevant to your desire to enter the United States. There are quite likely hundreds of millions of people around the world who are not criminals but potential migrants and workers, who would like to live in America. The overwhelming majority of them can’t, even if they turn up on the border.

Immigration almost always benefits the migrants – if it doesn’t they will usually move back home or move somewhere else – but the impact on the host country is much more ambiguous. Dozens of different factors relating to the conditions in the host country and the characteristics of the immigrants make all the difference between the good, the bad and the ugly. This is why it’s unwise to generalise about immigration as always positive or always negative. It’s neither.

caravan

No, you’re not. Being a citizen makes you a citizen. Over the last few years I’ve traveled to and “were” in over 20 countries; doing so didn’t make me their citizen, however much fun it would be to collect all the colourful passports and vote in a few of their elections.

And in the Middle East:

Sixteen Palestinians died as a result of taking part in the Friday riots at the border fence near the Gaza strip, said Ashraf al-Qidra, a spokesman for the Hamas-run Health Ministry In Gaza.

He also stated that 1,416 protesters had been injured.

The IDF stated that over 30,000 people had taken part in the riots and that the IDF snipers used live ammunition only in cases when the fence was about to be breached or when IDF troops were about to be shot at.

You might agree or disagree with the specific Israeli response in this case, but it’s difficult to seriously question that the Israelis have no wish to let into their territory, either permanently or temporarily, people who don’t recognise their right to exist and who want to exterminate them. There but for the heavily guarded fence…

It is true that over the years some borders have for all practical purposes come down. The European Union enjoys a free internal movement of its peoples. But the internal borders have been replaced by an external one. Whether it is maintained to the best of the collective interest of the EU member states is another question entirely. But such a massive social and economic experiment can only be successfully conducted among nations which are on a comparable level of economic development and/or share similar cultural and political values. Anything else is a folly. And if you disagree, contemplate what would happen if you abolish a border between a democracy and a pseudo- or non-democracy, and between a developed and a developing economy. If after this mental exercise (because, needless to say, real nation states are not keen to conduct such life experiment) you still think it’s a good idea, I will venture a guess that you might or might not like other countries, but you certainly hate your own.

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