Let Us Dream Bigger: The Dreamer Movement Should Support Open Borders

I am a reluctant Dreamer. I naturally sympathize with the goal of my fellow Dreamers to see some version of the Dream Act passed, but I can’t help it think too small a dream. The Dream Act would provide relief to us who were brought into the United States as children, but it would do little to improve the life of those who are still on the other side of the border. Open borders on the other hand would both improve our lives and humanity as a whole. Open borders would allow everyone to migrate freely regardless of their place of birth, race, wealth, or religion. Open borders would give everyone the right to decide their own fate by deciding where they want to live.

Open borders is a sounder argument than the Dreamer argument. Many Dreamers implicitly concede that their parents did something wrong by entering the United States unlawfully, but argue that they themselves did no wrong and should not be punished. The Dreamer argument does not condemn barriers against immigration per se, it only asks for special treatment for unique situations such as Dreamers.

Dreamers are right to point out that they should not be punished for the sins of the parents, and current US immigration law already reflects that. The primary punishment for illegal immigration is being subject to the immigration bars, which disallow one from lawfully migrating to the US for a set period of time subject to how much unlawful presence was accrued. Under existing law illegal aliens who are minors do not accrue unlawful presence. It takes a hundred and eighty days after a Dreamer has turned eighteen, the age of adulthood, before the first immigration bar of three years is triggered. Dreamers can, upon reaching adulthood, leave the United States and apply to return under existing legal channels without fear of a handicap.

By no means is immigration into the United States easy, but there are legal options. Surely the brightest Dreamers should be able to acquire a student visa. Those who are related to US citizens can re-enter on the fiancé visa or through other family-based visa schemes. The asylum system is not perfect, but those Dreamers who have genuine fear of going to their country of origin can lodge a defensive asylum claim. With this in mind it is unclear why dreamers need any further special exemptions.

Ultimately a Dreamer who remains in the United States after reaching adulthood has affirmatively elected to remain an illegal alien. They could have self-deported without spending a day in jail or even triggering an immigration bar but they instead choose to stay in the United States.

By no means am I advocating Dreamers self-deport.  I wish only to point out that the typical Dreamer argument is flawed and an unstable foundation. I offer in its place the case for open borders. We dreamers have the right to live unmolested in the United States, but this is because immigration is itself a universal human right and not because we are special. Any Canadians who wish to reside in Mexico should be able to do so. As should any Indians who might want to live in the United Arab Emirates. Immigration is always and everywhere a right possessed by all of humanity, not merely to a subsection of it.

Would advocating for open borders be more difficult than simply advocating for a special exemption for ourselves? Yes, but by no means must we insist on open borders overnight and it would be entirely fine to promote a gradual approach to open borders so long as we made our ultimate goal clear.

Promoting open borders would not only give dreamers a stronger foundation, but it would also gain us new political allies in the form of libertarians. Openborders.info is not exclusively targeted to libertarians, but many of its contributors are libertarians or fellow travelers. As a movement we Dreamers have long aligned ourselves almost exclusively with the left, and what good has that done us? On occasion we get a small reward to keep us content, but our goals have not been met because our allies need not worry about us shifting our resources elsewhere.

Take for example that the Obama administration had promised to announce a series of executive changes to immigration policy earlier this month, but backed out when it became clear it would be politically unpopular to do so. We may protest, but ultimately what does it matter? It is not as if we will punish the administration by going out and campaigning for Steve King and his anti-immigration posse. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has worsened our bargaining position by making our fate tied to the future electoral victory of the Democratic Party. What if however there existed other allies who could be counted on to, at minimum, leave DACA alone? Then we could have a genuine ‘protest vote’ and better our bargaining power.

Many libertarians are already predisposed to sympathize with our struggle, they know full well the idiocy of government regulation, and we can expect to be warmly received if we extended a hand towards them. Aside from Openborders.info, libertarian think tanks like the Cato Institute, the Reason Foundation, and the Independent Institute already offer their support to us.

I hope that my fellow Dreamers will adopt the case for open borders if not for the sake of having a stronger argument in the foundation of our movement, and if not to gain political allies, then at least for the sake of justice.

Image credit: Steve Pavey, Portland Occupier

Michelangelo Landgrave is an economics graduate student at California State University, Long Beach.

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