Deport All Troublemakers

Bryan Caplan frequently draws parallels between open borders and natalism. The comparison is intuitive: If we accept the argument that more people are a boon to society, then it follows that we can enjoy that boon whether newcomers are infants or immigrants.

Critics of immigration, however, frequently cite sundry “differences” between locals and foreigners as reasons why immigrants qua newcomers might be less of a boon – and indeed, more of a bane – than babies qua newcomers.

One of the reasons that I, personally, find the critics’ reasoning unpersuasive is that any trait that might convince me to deny an immigrant entry into the country is a difference that likewise ought to convince me to deport any native who held the same trait. In other words, I believe that differences between populations ought to count as much as differences across populations.

Why so?

The first reason is a simple matter of prejudice: If you believe a low-IQ “Ruritanian” is more destructive to American life than a low-IQ American, then it’s hard to avoid allegations of overt racism. Perhaps “there is more to it than that,” but if so, then the real problem isn’t actually the person’s low IQ, but rather whatever “more” there might be “to it.” Low IQ becomes a red herring, and the real issue becomes a prejudice against “Ruritarians.” If the issue is IQ – or any other particular difference – then the issue must apply equally to natives and immigrants alike. If it doesn’t, that is strong evidence of prejudice.

Another reason is a matter of empirics: Before we can even consider designing immigration policy around the differences that exist between human beings, we must first establish the following:

  1. That the differences between people really do translate into a reduced quality of life.

  2. That locals are inarguably more different from foreigners than they are from other locals.

  3. That the government really is capable of testing for these proven differences in a way that does not threaten the rule of law for locals and immigrants alike.

Point #1 is often taken on assumption, but it ought not be. For one thing, it calls into question why any immigrant would choose to emigrate from his/her fellow natives in the first place, since the differences s/he will encounter abroad supposedly make life worse for him/her, not better. For another thing, while it’s easy to merely allege that “the immigrants” caused crime to increase in your neighborhood or property values to decrease, it is substantially more difficult to prove it. I leave the burden of proof for Point #1 on immigration’s critics.

Moreover, that proof of Point #1 must necessarily account for Point #2. We must not only prove that, say, “religious differences” adversely impact local life, but also that I am more religiously different from a Russian immigrant than I am from my neighbor. A proof for Point #1 must also account for the many positive attributes brought to a community by outsiders, including (but not limited to) cultural benefits like food, music, and literature; friendship; genetic diversity, which as a matter of pure biology strengthens the population of any species; comparative economic advantages; and so on.

Proving or substantiating Points #1 and #2 should be extremely difficult considering the high degree of cosmopolitanism in countries that are attractive to immigrants. Today, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, China, Spain, Singapore, etc. are more cosmopolitan than at any other time in human history. The extent to which we are different from our neighbors has never been greater than it is today. This suggests that differences have more positive effects than negative effects, and that the residents of immigrant-friendly nations don’t seem to let their differences get in the way of a high standard of living.

Point #3 is an extremely high hurdle to clear for practical reasons. It involves first proving Points #1 and #2, and then demonstrating that we can indeed detect these differences reliably and empirically. Once we’ve managed to clear this hurdle, we must wrestle with the problem that any power transferred to the state for legitimate reasons is power that can potentially be abused.

This brings me to my third and final reason why differences within a population must matter as much as differences among different populations. If, as some have suggested, social contract theory entitles a nation’s government to sculpt the cultural make-up of its citizens, then deporting native cultural chaff is no less logical a method of doing so than refusing to import foreigners who hold the same traits. Assuming we manage to prove that differences are problematic, and that we can reliably test for them, doesn’t this imply that we can take action against our fellow natives just as easily as we can against potential immigrants? Why not deport all troublemakers?

If this suggestion makes you uneasy, I can understand why. Historical examples, such as Stalinist purges and various acts of genocide seen throughout history, give us reason to think twice. I’m obviously not suggesting that we really deport people who don’t mesh well with the rest of us; I’m suggesting that if doing so is ridiculous, so, too, must it be to deny an immigrant entry under the same rationale. That, too, leaving aside the even more practical considerations of how “we” might go about determining what “our” culture is, and who gets to decide which of “our” attributes are worthy of inclusion. In terms of actual policy, outside the ambiguity of social contract theory, designing policy guidelines that result in a cultural homogeneity that even the locals would prefer over the status quo seems impractical to the point of the absurd. As Paul Crider writes:

Who decides which aspects of “traditional” society are worth preserving (at the cost of more focused and observable individual freedoms, let’s not forget) and which aspects are merely parts of inevitable cultural evolution? …Should a committee of bureaucrats be set up to decide which foreign influences are acceptable cultural adaptations, the way the French have circled their wagons around the integrity of their language? Even if such a committee were popularly elected, it’s difficult to see how that democratic mechanism would achieve any greater legitimacy than uncoordinated individual actions…. There are other influences that will impact culture, influences that cultural preservationists are less willing to stifle by coercion…. Culture, including language, social values, artistic (literary, musical, etc) expression, and political values can and do all change as a result of younger generations challenging the ideas and practices of their forebears. This process of change over generations may be exacerbated by outside influences, but it would be hard to deny that at its core it is a natural phenomenon at work even in closed societies.

Many critics of immigration base their case against open borders on the differences between groups of human beings. I have attempted to show why this problem is not unique to immigrants, that we are in fact different from other natives, too. Eliminating differences in a community of peaceful people presents prejudicial, empirical, and practical problems that most would find unsettling. Those critics who point to “differences” as a justification for restricting immigration thus have a steep burden of proof assigned to them. Until they meet it, I remain unconvinced.

Weekly links roundup 04 2014

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The Coming Catholic Movement for Freedom of Migration

Let me begin by quoting most of the US Council of Catholic Bishops’ statement on immigration reform, from August 2013. After a short intro describing the problem, they summarizing Catholic social teaching on immigration thus:

The Catholic Catechism instructs the faithful that good government has two duties, both of which must be carried out and neither of which can be ignored. The first duty is to welcome the foreigner out of charity and respect for the human person. Persons have the right to immigrate and thus government must accommodate this right to the greatest extent possible, especially financially blessed nations: “The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.” Catholic Catechism, 2241. The second duty is to secure one’s border and enforce the law for the sake of the common good. Sovereign nations have the right to enforce their laws and all persons must respect the legitimate exercise of this right: “Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.” Catholic Catechism, 2241. In January 2003, the U.S. Catholic Bishops released a pastoral letter on migration entitled, “Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope.” In their letter, the Bishops stressed that, “[w]hen persons cannot find employment in their country of origin to support themselves and their families, they have a right to find work elsewhere in order to survive. Sovereign nations should provide ways to accommodate this right.” No. 35. The Bishops made clear that the “[m]ore powerful economic nations…ave a stronger obligation to accommodate migration flows.” No. 36.

This statement is very, very encouraging.

First, immigration is declared to be, not a privilege, but a right, even a “natural right.” Citizenists typically assume that states may and should admit immigrants only inasmuch as this serves the interests of natives. I am not a citizenist, but I can argue for open borders within a citizenist ethical framework.  But the idea of a right to migrate, for which I have often argued before, is a much more favorable place to start the argument. It is interesting for me to see the word “right” in a document published by the Catholic bishops, since the Catholic philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre once upon a time persuaded me that there are no such things as natural rights. I’ve since changed my mind and decided MacIntyre was wrong. It seems that on that metaphysical question, the Catholic bishops are on my side and not MacIntyre’s. By the way, I am not aware of any other such high-profile advocacy of the right to migrate. Andrew Yuengert makes a Christian case for the right to migrate, but it’s wonderful to see the idea endorsed by the Catholic bishops.

Government, it is declared, must accommodate the right to migrate “to the greatest extent possible.” This phrase might give restrictionists some cover, but not much. In the most literal sense, it gives none at all: for governments not to interfere with migration is clearly possible. But “the greatest extent possible” might plausibly be interpreted as “the greatest extent consistent with public order,” and it might be reasonably suggested that the more than 100 million people who would immigrate under open borders is more than public order in the US could withstand. All right then, but certainly the US could absorb far more immigrants than it does today. We are not on the verge of a societal collapse, not even close. We could let in a million more immigrants per year, and if that doesn’t cause societal collapse, a million more. Let’s find out what “the greatest extent possible” really is.

The Catholic bishops seem less favorable to the open borders cause when they say that governments have a “duty to secure [their] border” and “a right to enforce their laws.” But what does “secure the border” mean here? Restrictionists would like us to believe that “securing the border” means having absolute say-so over who gets into a country. A more minimalist definition would define securing the border merely as protecting a country’s territory and people from armed invasion. Open borders advocates would happily accept that governments should secure the border in that sense. The Catholic bishops do not make clear what they mean by “secure the border,” but their positions and policy recommmendations seem inconsistent with “securing the border” in the full, immigration restrictionist sense. The government is not able to do that even with its current draconian policies, and the Catholic bishops take a firm stand against those.

Twice, the bishops say that in enforcing the law, the state should act “for the sake of the common good.” Whose common good? The common good of US citizens only? This interpretation seems untenable. The most natural interpretation of the phrase “common good” is the common good of all mankind, or at least of everyone affected by US immigration policy. It can hardly be doubted that immigration restrictions imposed “for the common good” would be far more liberal than current policies.

The bishops state that “political authorities… may make the exercise of the right to migrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption.” This is a step back, I suppose, from the purest form of an open borders doctrine, but it seems consistent with DRITI, and I have no objection to it. In stressing “immigrants’ duties to their country of adoption” and their “oblig[ation] to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens,” the bishops concede much to natives who are worried about assimilation. Though I would note with satisfaction that they don’t actually use the term “assimilation,” which to my mind is the wrong place to put one’s emphasis, for immigrants may bring peculiar virtues which we would not want “assimilated” away. In any case, what these concessions do not seem to do is to give any warrant for simply excluding anyone. Anyone who fulfills the “juridical conditions” and “duties” may “exercise… the right to immigrate.” At any rate, that seems to be the most natural reading.

In contrast to the many advocates of greater openness to “high-skilled immigration,” the Catholic bishops put special emphasis on the right to migrate of the poor. The bishops’ language provides warrants for asserting a general right to migrate, but they are clearest in asserting a right to migrate for people who are unable to make a living in their home countries: “they have a right to find work elsewhere in order to survive.” And it almost seems that the usual duty to obey the law disappears in such cases. For the bishops say that “all persons must respect the legitimate [my emphasis] exercise of” sovereign nations’ right to enforce their laws; and is it a legitimate exercise of sovereign power to exclude destitute people from their chance to earn a living?

If the right to migrate trumps the duty to obey the law only in cases of desperate economic necessity, who is to be the judge of when economic necessity is desperate enough? I suppose it must be individuals, under the guidance of their spiritual pastors. The Catholic bishops do seem to think some individuals ought to say, “I would benefit by illegally migrating to the US, but I don’t really need to, so I won’t.” But do they endorse a sovereign state saying, “we don’t think you really need to come here, so we won’t let you in?” I would lean to saying no. What is clear is that they don’t endorse any state saying, “we can see that you desperately need to come here, but we don’t feel like letting you in, so you’re out of luck.”

After this statement of principles, the bishops get more specific:

Continue reading “The Coming Catholic Movement for Freedom of Migration” »

Doubling world GDP versus doubling utility: a technical note

Carl Shulman, one of the most impressive people I know, pointed me to a blog post he’d written a couple of weeks ago titled Turning log-consumption into a measure of short-run human welfare. Carl brought to my attention that a passage in my recent post titled how far are we from open borders?, used ambiguous language. Specifically, he pointed out that the passage:

These same estimates also suggest that much of the gain in production – and consumption – would be experienced by the world’s currently poorest people, leading to a significant reduction in, and perhaps an elimination of, world poverty. If we take utility to grow logarithmically with income, then this distributional aspect argues even more strongly in favor of the idea that open borders would increase global utility tremendously.

might suggest that I’m saying that taking utility as logarithmic points in the direction of the proportional gain in utility being higher than the proportional gain in world GDP. That was not my goal. Rather, my goal was to say that, if we take utility as the sum of logarithms of incomes, then for a given gain in world GDP, the gain in global utility resulting from that gain in world GDP would be higher if inequality was also reduced than if it wasn’t. Explicitly, having the poor’s income increase four-fold and the rich’s income stay the same, with overall GDP doubling, would give a higher utility gain than having everybody’s income double.

That’s the quick clarification. But Carl’s post raises a number of other points about the use of logarithms for considering utility, and I want to talk a bit more about some of the issues raised. The upshot, based on my reading, is that the considerations Carl raises point in favor of life-saving interventions (such as combating malaria) over interventions (such as open borders) that improve the quality of life of an existing population. But within the class of interventions that improve the quality of life of an existing population, the relative value of open borders to other interventions is not affected by the considerations Carl raises. Note also that the calculations in Carl’s original post explicitly adopt a short-run perspective, although he is elsewhere on the record stating that long-run considerations should dominate. Finally, population ethics is a fraught subject and there are a large number of issues that are somewhat related to this blog post that I do not get into, such as the question of how to value the potential existence of nonexistent people. See Nick Beckstead’s Ph.D. thesis for a detailed discussion of the far future and a summary of the philosophical literature on population ethics.

The rest of the post is fairly technical — following it properly requires a basic knowledge of calculus-level mathematics, though you can skip the quantitative statements and just consider the verbal statements.

I will consider six cases of progressively increasing complexity.

Case 1a: If you just have one person: taking logarithms is a monotone transformation that translates ratios into differences

Let’s begin with the case that we’re looking at just one person’s income. We want to understand, roughly, how the person’s “utility” grows with his or her income. We know that the greater the person’s income, the higher the person’s utility. In other words, utility is an increasing function of income. This in and of itself is good enough to tell us whether a given change in income leads to an increase or decrease in utility. What it doesn’t do is allow us to compare different changes in income with different starting and ending points. In other words, simply knowing that utility goes up with income says that income can be used as an ordinal scale for utility, but doesn’t allow us to answer questions such as: would increasing income from $10,000 to $11,000 matter more or increasing income from $100,000 to $101,000?

The assumption that utility grows logarithmically with income is an assumption that allows us to make cardinal comparisons between different changes in incomes. If we take utility to be logarithmic in income, then the increase in utility is the logarithm of the ratio of the final income by the initial income. This allows us to now meaningfully say that increasing income from $10,000 to $11,000 results in a bigger utility gain than increasing income from $100,000 to $101,000, because the ratio in the former case (1.1) exceeds that in the latter case (1.01). Note that we don’t need to take logarithms to answer the question of what gain is greater: we can just compare the ratios themselves.

The logarithm function is concave down, i.e., its second derivative is negative, so the average of the logarithms is less than the logarithm of the average. In other words, the gain in the logarithm for a given absolute gain in income is greater at lower income levels than at higher income levels. This can also be seen directly in terms of ratios as above: a $1,000 gain from $10,000 to $11,000 is larger as a proportional gain than a $1,000 gain the same absolute gain value) from $100,000 to $101,000.

There are two parameters to choose when setting up the logarithm-taking process, both of which are irrelevant for our purpose of comparing utility gains:

  1. The base to which logarithms are taken. Changing the base of logarithm from one value to another corresponds to a scaling transformation.
  2. The choice of “1” for income when taking logarithms, or equivalently, the choice of “0” for after taking logarithms, i.e., the income level whose logarithm we take to be zero. Changing this corresponds to a translation of the logarithmic scale, i.e., a change in the origin point.

Both choices are irrelevant for our main purpose: (2) is irrelevant because we are always looking at differences between points on the scale, so the location of the origin does not matter. (1) is irrelevant because we are comparing the differences with each other, not looking at their absolute magnitudes (in the same way as switching from meters to feet for length measurement will not change any of our fundamental analysis). (Technical note: We do need to impose the condition that the base of logarithms be greater than 1 for the analysis to hold, otherwise the scaling factor becomes negative and everything gets messed up).

A technical way of framing this is that we are treating the logarithm of income as an interval scale, i.e., a scale where it’s permissible to compare and take ratios of differences, but there is no natural zero, so it does not make sense to “double” a particular value of logarithm of income, nor does it make sense to add two values of logarithm of income. We can add, scalar-multiply, and take ratios between differences between logarithms of incomes, as these operations are invariant under the choice of origin. This is similar to how we treat temperature in practice: it does not make sense to add two temperatures and double a temperature, but we can perform the operations meaningfully on temperature differences.

However, once you delve deeper into physics, you discover that temperature actually does have an absolute zero and therefore can be measured on a ratio scale (the Kelvin scale being the standard choice in the case of temperature). If expressed in that scale, temperatures can legitimately be added and multiplied by scalars. Does there exist a similar natural choice of “absolute zero” for the logarithm of income? Not quite, but sort of. We now turn to some reasons for looking for such a zero.

Case 1b: Interpersonal utility comparisons

Let’s now consider the situation of comparing two people. We make the assumption not only that the utility functions of both are logarithmic in income, but also that the base of logarithms is the same. With these assumptions, we can compare an income change for one person to an income change for the other. If we also set an absolute zero for the log-income scale (i.e., a unit value for the income) for both the people (we could choose it to be the same for both) then we can also compare the income levels of the two people.

Case 1c: Considering the problem of zero income and non-existence

As income approaches zero, its logarithm approaches $latex -\infty$ (negative infinity). If we approximate death as switching to an income level of zero, then being dead corresponds to having a utility of negative infinity. This can pose problems when computing expected utilities in situations where there is a nonzero probability of death. Carl Shulman describes a standard way to get around the problem in his post. Explicitly, he suggests taking “subsistence income” as the absolute “1” for income, but with a twist: add a constant for the value of existing. Carl defines utility for a dead or non-existent person as 0, and utility for a living person as:

$latex s + \log(\text{income}) – \log(\text{subsistence income})$

where $latex s$ is the value of existence, and $latex \log(\text{income}) – \log(\text{subsistence income})$ is the additional value accrued from having income above the subsistence level. With this model, the effective “1” for income would be (subsistence income)/$latex b^s$ (where $latex b$ is the base of logarithms). People whose incomes are lower than that value have a negative value of existing. But in practice, we choose subsistence income and $latex s$ in a manner that nobody falls below subsistence income, let alone below (subsistence income)/$latex b^s$.

Once we have set up utility as a ratio scale as above, it makes sense to talk of the proportional change in utility. In particular, it makes sense to ask whether a given change in income causes utility to double, or more than double, or less. The answer to that would depend on the value of existence ($latex s$) and also on how far above subsistence income the person under consideration is. However, for reasonable choices, doubling income will lead to far less than a doubling of utility.

For instance, suppose we chose $latex b = 2$ as the base of logarithms, take subsistence income as $1/day, and take the existence value as $latex s = 5$. In this case, doubling income from $2/day to $4/day increases utility from 6 to 7, which is far less than doubling. Doubling income from $32/day to $64/day has an even smaller effect in terms of proportional utility gains: utility goes up from 10 to 11. (Technical aside: considering proportional gains in log-income is tantamount to taking differences of log-log-income.)

In fact, for a reasonably high choice of existence value, any change to the situation of an already existing person pales relative to a change that affects whether or not the person exists, such as birth and death. We’ll get back to this point once we consider the issue at the population level.

Case 2a: Getting multiple people into the picture, but abstracting away from the problem of people dying

We began by dealing with just one person who can earn different incomes, and then moved on to interpersonal utility comparisons, and also considered the possibility of death or non-existence, as well as . Let’s ignore the problem of death or non-existence right now, and consider a fixed population with more than one person.

The goal is to consider two different income configurations for this population, and compare them to find out which one is better. Now, at the individual level, the knowledge that utility is increasing in income was enough to say which of two income levels is greater, and the logarithmic assumption was necessary only to answer the question of how differences compared. However, in order to effectively aggregate the individual data, we do need to use a cardinal scale. In this case, since utility is assumed to be logarithmic in income, the “total utility” is the sum of all log-income values. We can then compare these totals across different configurations. Note that this case relies, albeit indirectly, on our being able to execute interpersonal utility gain comparisons (the case 1c above), and that reliance is reflected in our choice of using the same base for logarithms for all members of the population.

Now, although we are taking the sum, we are still using only the interval scale properties, and in particular, the location of the zero does not matter. This is because we are adding the same number of terms (corresponding to the members of the population) in all configurations. If we shift the location of the “zero” then that affects our “sum of log-incomes” for all configurations by an equal amount. Perhaps a better way to think than the sum is the average, for which the conclusion is clearer.

If open borders were to double every individual’s income, it would increase the average value of log-income by $latex \log 2$ and it would increase total utility by $latex \log 2$ times the population size. If, however, open borders doubled world GDP with its effect concentrated on people with low incomes, it would increase the average value of log-income by more than $latex \log 2$ (this follows from the remarks made in the discussion of Case 1a about the logarithm function being concave down).

The above is the situation that I consider by default and that is the context in which the quoted passage from my earlier post was written.

Case 2b: Comparing different populations

The remarks above continue to apply to the case of comparing improvements for different populations, including populations of different sizes, with the following catch: unless we fix an absolute zero, we can only compare changes in one population with changes in the other population. We cannot compare the absolute level of one population against the absolute level of the other, except in the following cases:

  • If both populations have the same size, we can compare absolute utility levels for the populations with one another assuming they have the same absolute zero, but we do not need to specify this absolute zero.
  • If the populations have different sizes, we need to specify absolute zeros for both populations in order to compare their absolute utility levels.

Case 2c: How the absolute zero allows us to compare absolute levels for different populations and introduce the possibility of death

If we embrace the model used by Carl described in Case 1c, we can tackle both the situation of comparing different populations and dealing with the problem of a nonzero probability of death. In this context, it actually does make sense to ask questions such as:

  • What is the ratio of the utility levels of two different populations?
  • What is the ratio of the utility levels of two different configurations for the same population?
  • What is the expected utility gain for a population in a scenario (where there is a nonzero probability of death or new births in the population)?

In this context, therefore, it makes sense to ask whether doubling world GDP would indeed double utility. The general answer would be that it falls far short of doing so, even if the gains are concentrated on the poorest people. This is for the reasons already discussed in Case 1c: for any individual, doubling income has a far smaller effect on utility than doubling. Note that the gains being concentrated on the poorest people still has more effect on utility than having the gains evenly distributed or concentrated on the richest people, but that “more” still isn’t sufficient to cause doubling.

The main reason why open borders gets to look a lot worse from the point of view of the ratios of utility levels than otherwise is simply that existence itself carries huge value, and open borders, by simply moving people, doesn’t add value commensurate with the value of existing. But this argument applies generally: for a reasonably high estimate of the value of existence, any measure that makes an existing population somewhat better (without increasing births or eliminating deaths) would look a lot worse than a measure that increased the size of the population. In fact, from the existence value perspective, there’s very little that’s more promising than pro-natalism and mortality reduction — which could range from combating malaria to ending aging. Thus, the comparative analysis of open borders with most other typically considered interventions, except interventions that directly and significantly affect mortality, still points strongly in favor of open borders.

With that said, it’s worth noting that it’s likely that, by reducing poverty, open borders would reduce child mortality and increase life expectancy worldwide, and therefore could also increase global utility more greatly through that channel than the GDP estimates indicate. Also, the effects on global population growth would need to be considered: it’s likely that open borders would lead to a short-term increase in population (as first-generation migrants resemble the fertility rates of their source countries but would have lower mortality rates), meaning a significant gain in utility, but within a few generations, migrants would assimilate to native fertility rates, which may well mean lower world population than in the status quo scenario. The effect of open borders on long-term demographic trends is an important topic but is outside the scope of the current post.

Joseph Carens on the ethics of immigration: part 2

This is a continuation of an earlier post where I began discussing The Ethics of Immigration by Joseph Carens (Oxford University Press, 2013). The item numbering continues from the previous post.

#7: Reasonable accommodations by and for migrants

Chapter 4 of Carens’ book covers an aspect of migration that is related to, but at the same time largely orthogonal to, the question of open borders. Specifically, Carens considers what reasonable accommodations migrants and non-migrants should ideally make for each other for harmonious living. Much of this discussion is not specifically related to migration policy or even to politics — though people with an expansive view of the state’s role would infer many political prescriptions from it, those of a more libertarian or voluntaryist nature could simply consider these as soft guidelines for the actions of individuals and organizations.

Importantly, Carens argues the following (the summary presented below is my own — Carens does not list these points together the way I’m doing — and therefore the act of summarizing may reflect to a large extent my own judgment of what is most important):

  • He argues that the democratic ethos goes beyond majority rule, to reasonable accommodation of people’s differences where possible. Such reasonable accommodation is not simply limited to non-violation of people’s legally guaranteed basic rights, but also to not making people unduly uncomfortable or inconveniencing them without appropriate justification. To some extent, this involves migrants accommodating the beliefs and adjusting to the conventions of the majority, even when it conflicts with their personal religious or cultural beliefs. At the same time, non-migrants also have a responsibility to make reasonable accommodations towards migrants where this does not impose huge costs.
  • Generally, Carens says, it is reasonable to expect migrants to do most of the adjusting — after all, they are the ones who chose to move. For instance, they may be expected to acquire (and provide to their children) a working familiarity with the main language of the region, follow the rules of the road, and be respectful to the dress choices and habits of natives. Carens argues that in prcatice, migrants do do most of the adjusting. At the same time, there is a nonzero level of responsibility (in the loose sense) for non-migrants to accommodate migrant preferences. For instance, he argues, natives should not be critical of migrants for talking in the non-native language when conversing among themselves in public, though they may have a reasonable expectation that migrants will attempt to converse in the native language when interacting with natives.
  • Carens argues in favor of being flexible to make exceptions to general rules. He is critical of the idea that rules must be enforced rigidly on everybody, and also opposes the ideal of formal equality. He cites the example of holidays here. In a country influenced heavily by Christianity (even if people are not devoutly Christian), Sunday is likely the day off for most businesses. This works best for Christians who attend Sunday services. For Muslims or Jews, whose religious observances are on Friday and Saturday respectively, this could pose an inconvenience. Carens rejects the option of: (a) a formal “equality” where the holiday date is shifted to a completely unrelated day, such as Tuesday, to be “fair” between religions, or (b) making all three days holidays (insofar as that might not be economically feasible). However, he argues that businesses and institutions can show some flexibility to their employees who hold the alternative religious beliefs, for instance, by giving Muslims a few hours off on Friday. There are no hard-and-fast rules here — the type of accommodation would depend on the employer and employee, but the general principle should be one of looking for possible accommodations.

Here is a quote from Carens:

The challenge for this chapter is to say something about the sort of democratic ethos that is needed in a political community if citizens of immigrant origin are to be fully included . Here a caution is in order. In public discussions of immigration, it is a recurring theme that immigrants and their descendants should accept democratic values and practice democratic virtues. Suitably qualified, that is a reasonable expectation, as we shall see. But an equally reasonable and perhaps more important expectation is that other citizens also accept democratic values and practice democratic virtues . All too often, the assumption seems to be that the majority of citizens already possess the values and virtues that are needed for a democracy to function properly. But that is frequently not the case. Democratic principles require the inclusion of immigrants, and the inclusion of immigrants requires the majority of citizens to embrace the implications of the principles and values that they profess. This will often entail developing attitudes and dispositions that many citizens do not yet exhibit, at least in the requisite degree. I will say more about these requirements as the chapter proceeds. People sometimes speak of the need for democratic states to engage in a more “muscular” assertion of their values and to demand adherence to those values from people living in their societies. If that is indeed what is called for, a lot more of the muscle should be applied to the nonimmigrant majority of citizens than is commonly acknowledged.

Carens, Joseph (2013-09-19). The Ethics of Immigration (Oxford Political Theory) (p. 64). Oxford University Press, USA. Kindle Edition.

#8: Communitarian versus contractarian views of citizenship

Carens makes a theoretically deep point about communitarian and contractarian views of citizenship. In most political philosophizing (cf. social contract theory), the set of people (citizens) is fixed in advance, and their relationship and mutual obligations with the state are considered in that context. Carens believes that bringing migration into the picture helps us step back. We see that citizenship is not really the fundamental source of moral or social obligation, but a consequence — a formalization of a particular level of connection with the community. Carens says that social membership precedes citizenship — that citizenship (or the right thereto) is a consequence of being a part of the community, rather than a formal grant of citizenship creating a right to such a community. Carens also emphasizes the idea that social membership matters morally.

This is important because Carens uses it as a basis (implicitly — he pieces the theory together after examining all the individual cases) for arguing about why people are entitled to citizenship. People such as:

  • children born to citizens, permanent residents, or temporary workers, or even to irregular migrants (his word for illegal/undocumented) who are staying long enough,
  • anybody who’s stayed for a few years as a child,
  • anybody who’s stayed long enough as an adult.

He also argues that levels of social membership aren’t in the binary category of citizen versus non-citizen. Permanent residents who have enough roots to call the place their home deserve most of the same rights as citizens, including the right to return and the right against deportation, even if they haven’t lived long enough to become citizens. He also argues (alluded to in earlier points) that most laws should be the same for temporary workers and irregular migrants. Some exceptions he makes:

  1. Temporary workers may be exempted (optionally or mandatorily) from work-related social programs, and for a limited period (maybe the first couple months) ineligible for welfare or unemployment insurance. He says that if temporary workers are required to participate in work-related social insurance programs (so as not to make them cheaper to employers than permanent employers) the non-redistributive component of the program (i.e., the part that they would in expectation get paid back were they to stay longer) should be returned to them on their departure. What he’s suggesting seems to be a lot like my co-blogger Nathan Smith’s DRITI — except he’s using existing social insurance taxes rather than adding a new set of taxes.
  2. Some restrictions on employment opportunities for irregular migrants.
  3. Non-permanent residents may be barred from government offices that involve sensitive matters of national security.

The communitarian approach followed by Carens is different in focus from Steve Sailer’s preferred foundation for citizenism. Sailer defines citizenism as the doctrine that government policy should be biased in favor of current citizens and their descendants. Now, to be clear, Sailer, like many citizenists, does consider community loyalty and ties to be an important component of citizenship — hence his proposal that prospective immigrants be required to spend 100 hours doing community service outside of their ethnic group in order to receive citizenship. But Sailer, and citizenist restrictionists at large, view community belonging as a necessary but not sufficient condition for a non-citizen to become a citizen. Carens thinks that being a part of the community for a sufficient length of time — without having done anything special (such as Sailer’s community service proposal) for it per se — entitles one to citizenship.

#9: Firewalling government services from immigration enforcement

Carens argues that for irregular migrants, all of their basic human rights (protection of life, liberty, etc.) should apply in theory and in practice. His suggestion for making sure they apply in practice: establish a firewall between all agencies tasked with protecting basic human rights or basic services, and the immigration enforcement. In other words, these agencies are required not to report any information about irregular migration status to immigration enforcement authorities, and any information that is reported via these agencies cannot be treated as evidence. He points out precedents:

  • There are restrictions on the information that the Internal Revenue Service can share with immigration enforcement agencies in the United States, though it’s unclear how strongly these restrictions apply in practice (see here).
  • Some “sanctuary cities” in the United States, such as San Francisco, have policies of the sort Carens advocates.
  • There are rules in criminal cases that evidence collected through illicit means cannot be used, and similar rules can apply in immigration cases.

Carens also says that the children of irregular migrants should have the right to a free public education, just as the children of temporary workers do (this is conditional to such a right existing for citizens, but Carens assumes that that follows from “democratic principles”).

Carens also says that after people have resided for some length of time, they become part of the society, and should be regularized. He suggests 5 years as the length of time after which people deserve to be regularized as permanent long-term residents. This applies both to temporary workers on a regular migration status and to irregular migrants.

So what can governments do to enforce the status quo? Carens says that border security would be acceptable in principle — provided it can be done in a way that doesn’t add to human tragedy (border-crossing deaths, etc.), but that often the human toll of border security makes it unacceptable. But his main proposal is the restrictionist favorite of attrition through enforcement: heavy penalties for employers who hire irregular migrants. He has an interesting twist though: if an employer has hired an irregular migrant, that particular migrant has a right to the wages for that worker and to legal recourse if the wages are denied (and the enforcement of this legal recourse channel has a firewall with immigration enforcement). Also, he says that employers should not be allowed to report their own workers’ irregular status.

Carens offers one argument in favor of blaming employers: they are part of the society, so they can be held to the standard of the laws of that society, whereas migrants aren’t part of the social contract. Nonetheless, I find his arguments unconvincing. Why single out employers as the one group to be punished, while doing the very opposite — firewalling — for all the other groups? Carens says that if immigrants aren’t able to find employment, they’re likely to leave (the attrition-through-enforcement idea) but this applies to housing, and plausibly to education for children, and other services Carens thinks should be firewalled. Carens arguably sees the right to work as somehow less fundamental than all the other rights, at least when he’s putting on his status quo hat, and this seems reminiscent of anti-market bias.

Stay tuned for Part 3, where I’ll look at the case Carens makes for family reunification and reforming the system for refugee asylum and resettlement.