Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Ethnicity-Based Immigration System as the First Step toward Open Borders

In the previous post, this blog argued that nationalism, in the form of openly supporting people from a particular nation at the expense of often negatively stereotyped foreigners can be a huge obstacle for true globalization where people can freely move, work, and live across national borders.  Unfortunately, the fact remains that most people (never mind state governments), educated in a context of patriotism, cannot simply become open to the idea of rendering nationality as irrelevant in order to achieve freedom of movement.  The concept of nation, and the state-level polity, associated with it, remains far too strong today to alter.

But if we are to espouse the idea of globalization as the ultimate goal by which greater prosperity and peace can be achieved across human civilization, then it would be interesting to think about what first steps individual countries can take.  Those steps can be ones that do not significantly reduce the authority of the state, incite anger among nationalists opposed to the idea of foreigners taking up controlling roles within their countries, all the while ensuring that there are concrete measures being taken to ensure that in the near future, at least, the general public's inclination to be nationalistic can be diluted somewhat.

One of the ways to move in that direction of globalization may be to gradually loosen immigration along ethnic lines.  An ethnically homogenous country (like Japan, for instance) can selectively loosen requirements for immigration for people of the same ethnic descent from other countries (like Japanese-Brazilians, using the same example) so that more immigration does not automatically lead to changes in the ethnic composition of the country while making the eligible immigrant pool small enough so that loosening immigration does not lead to sudden uncontrollable masses applying to enter the country.

After all, for many countries, one of the major fears of more immigrants is demographic changes that lead to weakening of the "native" cultural traditions and other socioeconomic institutions.  Economic immigrants from distant lands often arrive in new countries with little knowledge of the place beyond potential employment and business opportunities.  The sheer differences in the cultures, customs, laws, and politics of their homelands and their migration destinations also make the process of their assimilating into the migration destinations extremely difficult.

Of course, the same obstacles also would apply for immigrants of same ethnicity as the major population of the host country. Again using the same example, the average Japanese-Brazilian grew up in a society where the legal and cultural traditions (not to mention language and customs) are extremely different from the ones under the Japanese in Japan grew up in.  Despite fitting in visually, for Japanese-Brazilians to fit in at a deeper emotional level in Japan would take much longer, perhaps only after generations of having enrolled in local schools and worked in local workplaces.

But the fact of the matter is that by just looking the same, these immigrants can hope to achieve complete assimilation even if it takes a long time.  Looking at the major issues of immigration today, the concept of race still looms much larger than any other point.  European opposition to continued acceptance of immigrants and refugees from the Middle East and Africa is rooted as much in "odd" religious practices as it is in irreconcilable racial differences.  As long as those racial differences continue to exist, there will always be some sort of schism between so-called "native" populations and immigrants.

Even in the US, where blacks have lived in the country for centuries now, inequality along racial lines continue to be a major issue.  The fact that ethnicities are different ensure that even if the problems lie elsewhere, race, as the most visual of social identities, is always brought forth as the cause and reason of divisions within the country, in terms of wealth, culture, status, and opportunities.  Yet, people pay little attention to divisions within different groups of white immigrants.  No one seems to care what are the divisions between the Irish and the Italians in America are, since their divisions seem so much less than those between whites and blacks.

The benefit of not having to deal with the negative long-term consequences of racial divisions is the primary reason why ethnicity-based immigration should be the first step toward open borders.  The belief that after a few generations, immigrants of same ethnic descent can fit in much better in the destination country will also motivated the "native" populations to support such measures, confident in that people of same ethnic roots can ultimately be assimilated unlike those of visually different races.  When the "native" populations become more comfortable with being able to assimilate people of same ethnicity, the rules can be further loosened to people of similar (but not same ethnicities).

It can be observed that some countries that are not traditional destination of immigrants, are testing out this method.  India's Non-resident Indian status has granted millions of Indians with non-Indian citizenship access to the booming Indian economy.  South Korea's "compatriot" visa system grant ethnic Koreans from elsewhere practical all rights given to citizens (except political ones).  It would be interesting to see if more countries that are traditional center of emigration become net-immigration countries by employing similar strategies.

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