I know David Brooks’ job is to reach a word count, but when I read the headline of today’s column about immigration, “The Easy Problem,” I thought maybe he’d really give us the easy answer. The easiest of all answers comes from recognizing that borders are inhumane, and then doing the humanistic thing. I can think of no other threat to human emancipation, and simple well-being, that is so obviously socially constructed as a border. If somebody wants to walk across a border, they should walk across the border. Or better yet, get rid of the borders, and you’ve solved the immigration ‘problem.’ If you have to justify all of your beliefs with ‘free market’ ideals, then go ahead and read Brooks’ column. If you just like being a decent person, well, this is my significantly shorter suggestion.
Yesterday the New York Times ran a ‘room for debate’ piece about state immigration laws. Mostly these brief essays focused on the proper role of federal and state governments in establishing and enforcing immigration law. This is a fairly common point of debate in recent discussions of immigration in the U.S. I’m not as familiar with immigration law as I should be, but there is a question about the significance and social meaning of borders that always comes to mind when I read about immigration.
I assume that most national borders, and it’s certainly the case with the northern and southern U.S. borders, were established (and are continually enacted) through violence. While the violent origin of the U.S. southern border is rather frequently alluded to, it’s rarely considered as a significant consideration in contemporary discussions of border politics. My question about the significance of borders is this: If borders were established violently, then are those who work to defend their location and legal authority actively legitimizing and enacting that violence? Further, are those who choose not to consider the relevance of the initial violence passively legitimizing the violent origin of nation-space?