Tag Archives: Open Borders Movement

Immigration Comics

Recently my co-blogger Vipul has begun to write about visa policy in the United States: about how most visas cannot be renewed within the United and about automatic visa validation.  Vipul’s posts reminded me about a plot line in PhD Comics, written by Jorge Cham, PhD.

"I'm harboring an illegal alien?"PhD Comics by Jorge Cham

A few years back Tajel, the strip’s social science graduate student and resident foreigner, discovers that her visa has expired. The story chronicles Tajel as she discovers that she might be an illegal alien, her journey to Mexico to renew her visa there and, as obligatory of any comic series dealing with graduate students, makes several jokes at the expense of higher education.

The series also gave birth to this lowly little explanation of the student visa system in the United States:

phd062308sPhD Comics by Jorge Cham

Despite the comedic nature of these comics, they do give us some idea on how we might wish to push forward when making our case for open borders. We must (and currently do) make our case towards intellectuals, but we must also make the case towards the average man on the street. Comics might be one avenue to explore.

The beauty of comics is their simplicity. Due to the history of comics in newspaper the profession has adopted the four-panel (or Yonkoma) standard. A comic had to be short as larger strips were difficult to fit it into the valuable space in a newspaper layout. The result has been that comic artists have had to master telling their story quickly. With the dawn of web comics artists have been able to experiment with panel designs, but even then the most popular comics use as few as possible panels as possible.

Am I implying that the average man on the street is incapable of comprehending ‘intellectual’ arguments? Not at all. The average man does however have different comparative advantages and resources than ‘intellectuals’. The average man on the street is juggling work and family life; the amount of time he can devote to leisurely pursuits is limited. We should not be surprised then if he prefers to browse the funny pages over picking up a book on the economics of immigration.

Comics themselves are often seen as ‘low’ culture, but I think this is unmerited. Comics can be, and have been, used to discuss serious issues. Alan Moore, a comic artist best known perhaps for his work on the Watchmen or V for Vendetta, has used his art to share his  anti-authoritarian view on politics. Aaron McGruder, creator of the Boondocks strip, uses the media form to discuss current events from his uniquely leftist view. Little Orphan Annie, which modern audiences might better remember as the source material of the musical Annie, was created by Harold Gray to attack the New Deal and promote conservative politics.

BoondocksBoondocks by Aaron McGruder

Read More In This Series

This is an ongoing series on ideas on how the open borders movement should proceed next.

What should be next for the Open Borders movement? by Michelangelo Landgrave

Philosophers, Wonks, and Entrepreneurs by Vipul Naik

Why the Open Borders Movement Should (Mostly) Avoid Emulating the Gay Marriage Movement by Nathan Smith

You can read the rest of Tajel’s visa story at phdcomics.com. For the convenience of readers I’ve compiled the relevant comics below (the series had several mini-arcs in between).

Part #1 – Did you know your student visa is expired?
Part #2 – I’m harboring an illegal alien?
Part #3 – Apparently it’s the D/S on the I-20 that determines USCIS…
Part #4 – Give us your tired, your poor, your thoroughly confused…
Part #5 – I’ll go to Tijuana!
Part #6 – The F-1 Student Visa Process Explained
Part #7 – Your application triggered several red flags.
Part #8 – For security purposes we need a statement of exactly what your thesis is.
Part #9 – At least you picked me over the internet.
Part #10 – Professors: More Elusive Than Ninjas?
Part #11 – Ninjas vs Professors: A Comparative Analysis
Part #12 – I see him!
Part #13 – Professors exist as probability density functions.
Part #14 – Does this mean interactions are purely hypothetical?
Part #15 – I wonder what’s going on today?
Part #16 – Did someone not need me?
Part #17 – Free the burros!

All images copyright of their respective creators.


What should be next for the Open Borders movement?

Readers of Open Borders: The Case will have noted the slowing down of new content in the site. Is this a sign that my co-bloggers and I have lost interest in the cause? Not at all, the slowdown is but a sign that we have made the general case for open borders and are at this point working on closing up any leftover holes in the argument. This begs the question: Now that the case has been made what should the open borders movement do?

Below are some ideas of what the movement should do next. I encourage my fellow bloggers and our audience to offer their own suggestions.

Taking the next step at a crossroads

Taking the next step at a fork. Source

In the short term:

In the immediate future my hope is that we can compile the best articles on the site and edit them into a comprehensive booklet that can be easily digested by the general public. To cut down on costs the booklet could be initially released via online format.

If possible this booklet should be translated into the major world languages in order to better reach non-English audiences. Open Borders: The Case already has a German-language sister site, Offene Grenzen, but it is not difficult to imagine the benefits of making the case for open borders in Spanish, Russian, or Chinese.

Another minor changes that we could pursue is formalizing a system to deal with media inquiries. On occasion we have received requests from media outlets or journalists and they have been resolved through proxy.  It should not be difficult to organize a ‘Press Info’ page with a general summary of the case for open borders and procedure to contact us for further inquiries.

In the longer term:

My longer term hope though is the creation of a group that actively proposes practical steps towards an open borders world to the general public and government officials. Open Borders: The Case has touched upon some possible solutions such as Nathan Smith’s Don’t Restrict Immigration, Tax It (DRITI) or my own proposal to use NAFTA and other trade agreements to expand the free movement of labor but more could be done. Open Borders: The Case has managed to make an elaborate case in favor of an open borders world. What we need now is a group that works on translating the case for open borders into a reality, an “Open Borders: How to Implement” group if you will.

Due to resource constraints such a group should focus on encouraging pro-immigration policies in the United States, the European Union, and Australia-New Zealand as lifting immigration barriers to these areas would do the greatest good.

Some may feel that the creation of such a group would be redundant as several pro-migrant groups already exist. However pro-migrant is not the same as pro-immigration and this leads to times where our allies favor public policies that are not necessarily reconcilable with a pro-immigration view.

There may be several professional pro-migrant advocates, but pro-immigration professionals are much rarer. This shouldn’t be confused to mean that the open borders movement is small. There are many academics, think tankers, and other policy advocates who favor open borders, but only a small fraction of them concentrate their day jobs on advancing the open border case.

I imagine that our best course of action would be to set up shop in the San Francisco Bay Area. Not only is the Bay Area home to a large number of migrants, but it houses many firms with a vested interest in seeing immigration restrictions eased. As with any organization it will be important to find a reliable pool of patrons for activities and the Bay Area seems as the best option.

For an idea of how much revenue would be needed to set up shop I have compiled a listing of think tanks and similar advocacy groups in the Bay Area:


And here are figures for some think tanks and similar groups devoted to immigration issues:


Proxy offices will have to be opened up in DC, Canberra, Brussels, and elsewhere to reach government officials, but a Bay Area office should be the center piece in outreach efforts with the general public. Costs can be minimized due to the advent of telecommuting but a physical location is necessary to allow for regular events aimed at the general public and government officials to be conducted.

By all means work on Open Borders: The Case should be continued and, as I noted above, there are still a few patches in the overall argument that need to be filled. As these things are done though work should begin on creating an “Open Borders: How to Implement” group.