Open Borders: outsiders, immigration and moral politics

by Fiona Ferbrache

The Statue of Liberty on which a plaque displays the following: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of you teamming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

“How far should an open society go on accepting outsiders?”

This question relating to immigration control and citizenship was posed by political philosopher, Professor Sandel, to an audience at the University of Dallas, Texas.  This US state shares a border with Mexico and around one million illegal immigrants are said to be living in Texas.  The debate is available to listen to, as part of Radio 4′s Public Philosopher series in which Prof. Sandel discusses contemporary political issues at various universities.  In the most recent series, Prof. Sandel raised political-moral issues that have been at the forefront of agendas during the recent US Presidential campaigns.

Another question posed by Prof. Sandel is whether there should be any controls on migration at all.  He puts this to his audience by asking “how many would be in favour of open borders and how many would be against?”

Debates around ‘no border’ policies are raised by Bauder (2012) in Area.  Contextualised as a way of overcoming the ontology of the nation-state and associated identities and migrant subjectivities (i.e. the classification of migrants as foreigners and non-citizens), Bauder claims that no-border projects seek to liberalise migrants.  Not only does this free them from functionary classifications such as ‘immigrant’, ‘resident’, or ‘temporary worker’, it also draws attention to migrants’ complex identities beyond these classifications.  The concept of no borders effectively disrupts the dominant frameworks used to understand migration in the contemporary world.

In response to Prof. Sandel’s question, the majority of the audience was against open borders, while a small minority was in favour.  Where do you stand?

  Bauder, H. (2012) Nation, ‘migration’ and critical practice. Area. DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01129.x

  The Public Philosopher: Immigration. Radio 4

  Latino’s immigration issue brings mixed feelings towards Obama. BBC News online

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