A Case for Open Borders

1838 Words 8 Pages
A Case for Open Borders

In his address to a joint session of Congress on January 8, 1918, President Woodrow Wilson declared freedom of the seas in times of peace and war. Looking back, it seems ridiculous to think that anyone could challenge the right of individuals to navigate the oceans freely. However, fast-forward to the twenty-first century and we can see an analogous debate over the issue of immigration rights, with territorial borders being the main topic of discussion. The system of immigration in the United States is complex and oftentimes restrictive, and while revisions to the system usually include increasing quotas or other solutions to let in certain groups of people who deserve special consideration (such as those
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Joseph Carens (an advocate for open borders) makes reference to Locke in pointing out that government is formed to “enforce the rights which individuals already enjoy in nature” . If, as according to Locke, individuals can migrate in nature (“dispense of their possessions and persons… without asking… or depending upon the will of any other man”), then logically government cannot violate this right to migrate because government is formed to protect natural rights. This syllogism justifies Carens’ claim that “citizenship gives rise to no distinctive claim” in terms of the right to migrate. Does this mean that a society or government has no control over restricting its citizens, such as only allowing citizens to vote? No, it only implies that natural rights exist for individuals and not only for citizens, and we have justified that the right to migrate is a natural human right. Therefore, citizenship is not a valid means for closing borders. To close borders would be to contradict Locke’s notion that “all the power and jurisdiction [should be] reciprocal”, and would thus violate the natural rights guaranteed in the state of nature.

We will now examine the policy of restricted borders, and how it is arbitrary in character. Primarily, the policy of closed borders is arbitrary when the right of emigration is compared to immigration. When comparing the right to emigrate with…