Full-fledged open borders seems far off to the point of being utopian, but there are several principles/programs short of open borders that might be easier to achieve, and which would bring some of the benefits of full-fledged open borders while bringing it closer. These are a few:
1. The right to invite (see here). People benefit by being able to invite others, and this is something they might demand more of from their governments. It exists with fiance visas and family reunification visas. California growers lobby for the right to invite guest workers into the country. What if professional women agitated for the right to import maids and baby-sitters? What if the elderly agitated for the right to import drivers? Zuckerberg’s immigration advocacy group might be thought of as agitating for the right to invite high-tech workers on H1-B visas. An unlimited right to invite would be almost the same thing as open borders, but even if, say, every US citizen could sponsor a couple of guest visas per year, that would loosen things up a lot.
2. The right to emigrate. Rich countries should feel a lot guiltier than they do about the fact that their immigration policies make them complicit in some of the world’s worst regimes by not giving people a way out. If the world took human rights seriously, one of our top priorities would have to be the worldwide establishment of a right to emigrate, if one’s home country provides very inadequate freedoms or economic opportunities. That is, rich countries would seek to make sure that everyone had somewhere half-decent that they could go. IMPALA may help with this, by making it possible to quantify the extent to which probably billions of people are imprisoned in destitute and/or unfree countries today. The pursuit of a global right to emigrate might involve using aid money to incentivize some countries to become haven or refuge countries, while other rich countries did their part by providing this aid money. By the way, this needn’t be done out of altruism. It might be in the geopolitical interests of the United States or Europe to ensure that Russian young men of an age to serve in the army have some place to run away to, or to facilitate the voluntary depopulation of Iran. Emigres might even provide a useful pool of volunteers for a Foreign Legion eager to liberate Iran with American guns and air support, but without American boots on the ground.
3. The rights of the “larger body.” I picked up the phrase “larger body” from C.S. Lewis’s The Four Loves; it means that the experience of being an incarnate being extend beyond the actual organism under our control to include many objects of our natural loves, including wives, husbands, children, parents, brothers, sisters, pets and other animals, and friends. US immigration policy, which to some extent accommodates family reunification motives, gives some de facto recognition to the rights of the larger body, but what is missing is a definite legal and moral doctrine that the state cannot justly separate families or close friends, and must accommodate the needs of this important aspect of human nature. This falls short of open borders since, of course, not every aspiring immigrant is part of the “larger body” of any US citizen. It is different from the “right to invite,” above, because I mean by the right to invite, not a fundamental human right, but a positive right which governments would establish to please or pander to citizens rather than from a sense of inexorable duty.
4. Citizens’ right to interact with, hire, sell to, rent apartments to, illegal immigrants. When citizens have to check the papers of potential employees, contractors, tenants, customers, or whatever, that’s inconvenient, and also a little scary, since presumably some punishment awaits if they make a mistake. The defense of a small businessman’s right to hire without verifying papers, or better yet without papers at all, or the landlord’s right to lease a house without papers, would ease the way for immigration, too. For that matter, I would insist that the state acts unjustly if it refuses to issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, because its authority to police the roads can properly be exercised as a means to the safety of motorists and pedestrians, which is not jeopardized by an illegal immigrant as such being on the road, but, on the contrary, is jeopardized when illegal immigrants can’t get driver’s licenses and so, if they feel it necessary to take the risk or driving for economic or personal reasons anyway, will be under particular temptations to hit-and-run if they get in an accident. If an illegal immigrant hits a pedestrian, then runs instead of helping, because if he helps he’s afraid he’ll be deported and never see his family again, and the pedestrian dies, the illegal immigrant is probably to blame, but the state is certainly culpable in the pedestrian’s death for gross negligence in its duty justly to police the streets. Establishing this principle would help the open borders cause.
5. International migration negotiations. On the analogy of international trade negotiations, meaning that one state agrees to admit the citizens of another state in return for like privilege being granted to its own citizens. For example, what if the US and the EU made an agreement whereby Europeans could migrate to the US and work freely, and Americans could do the same in Europe. I would anticipate large gains on both sides, as Americans would benefit culturally from access to Europe’s treasury of ancient, beautiful cities, while Europeans would benefit economically from access to America’s relatively more prosperous and dynamic economy. The politics of such a deal would be very different from those of allowing mass immigration from developing countries. Once the precedent was set, it could spread.