From Barry Deutsch.
I pointed out previously that other political debates were straw men used to deflect attention from the real issues. The abortion debate hides the PIV issue. The gun control debate hides the issues of American violence specifically, and more generally, State violence against its citizens. These issues have been so marginalized in political discourse that to bring them up is tantamount to being a crazy person; therefore political debates on these subjects must necessarily remain superficial, because the underlying problems are now taboos.
The issue of immigration is no different. Why is there such a worldwide immigration pressure towards the Western world? Why don’t people want to stay where they were born? Well, the main reasons are lack of jobs, low living standards, political repression, and corollaries of these such as families following one of their members in another country.
What has been the main factor in lowering the standard of living, jobs, and fostering political repression around the globe? Neo-liberalism, of course. Don’t you think it’s a little suspicious that we don’t talk about that at all when we talk about immigration? That we assume people immigrate because they basically have ill will?
So first we destroy entire economies under the guise of “austerity measures” in order to destroy their self-sufficiency and get them to produce cheap exports for Western powers, which destroys social safety nets, drives poverty up, and dries up the food and consumer products available in that country, creating famines, drives prices up, and further undermines the standard of living.
Now people start to protest, which increases violent repression by the State and, supported by Western governments, torture and killings. Some people then start to migrate in order to find a better life, only to be turned down by the same Western countries who ruined their life in the first place, and from our privileged vantage place we call them thieves, drains on society, unpatriotic, and so on, using these labels as excuses to keep them in poverty. Well, isn’t that convenient?
Few world economies have not been wrecked by colonialism, imperialism or neo-liberalism. These are the countries that are part of the G7: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. All of these countries were colonial powers except for Canada, and all of them are now beneficiaries of the neo-liberalist system. They have always enriched themselves, and continue to enrich themselves, on the back of the world’s poor. Apart from xenophobic Japan, all these countries unsurprisingly have migration surpluses.
Just as the abortion debate takes PIV as a given, and the gun control debate takes gun violence, and State violence especially, as a given, the immigration debate takes neo-liberalism as a given. By this I mean that the premise that neo-liberalism is an inexorable fact (let alone that it’s a good thing) is one of the background assumptions behind any immigration debate, and that no one would question it, simply because doing so means losing all credibility (unless one is talking to a sympathetic audience which also stands outside the margins of discourse, i.e. fellow crackpots)
But it is not just neo-liberalism that lies in the background; it seems to me that one could be a neo-liberalist and still not be as profoundly racist or bigoted as both sides are on the current immigration debate. I think you need to add at least one more element, and that’s victim-blaming.
Immigration, even legal immigration, is discussed as an issue of individual worth and of individual crime. There is never any discussion of the actual reasons why anyone would move from their home country. All that liberals and conservatives talk about is how worthy a person is, and how much of a crime it is for one to immigrate.
But for this conversation to be meaningful, we must exercise doublethink: we must first believe that neo-liberalism is inexorable (because one cannot think otherwise) and also believe that neo-liberalism does not really exist; to acknowledge that neo-liberalism is in effect would mean looking at the actual reasons why people migrate, and that’s equally unacceptable.
I see similarities there between immigration and other issues. For example, genderism equally relies on doublethink: it requires us to both believe that gender roles are innate and necessary, and that we’re all equal now and that therefore any problem is the individual’s fault (this is a contradiction because gender roles are a hierarchy, and therefore anyone operating under them cannot be equal).
In general, willful acceptance of systemic oppression requires us both to believe the oppression is not really oppressive and to believe that the oppression does not exist, so we can blame the individual for eir situation without realizing how absurd that is.
This necessity of doublethink does not exist by accident. As I often remind readers, it all comes down to agency and voluntaryism. We believe that individuals “choose” whatever they do, and that they are responsible for their own victimhood. If we assume that this is true, then no systemic influence on individual actions can be acknowledged. I don’t think this is necessarily a fully conscious argument, but it is there.
One of the problems with the doublethink is that it erases the underlying racism which guides the immigration debate. Racism helps dehumanize the individuals involved and make discussion of their worth possible. If we started from the premise that each “immigrant” is a full person with their own values, needs, and so on, it would be impossible to talk of them as needing to be evaluated as worthy or unworthy, only slightly criminal or heavily criminal, and so on.
I mentioned that political oppression is another motive for immigration. Well, obviously again neo-liberalism and imperialism are of primary importance. How many dictators have been supported into power by American military operations or the IMF? How many people’s basic human rights have been crushed by “austerity measures”?
It seems to me that if a person was seriously committed to keeping immigration in check, their number one priority should be to end the neo-liberalist system and try to build up foreign economies. But the people who are most against immigration are also the people who have the most to lose from ending neo-liberalism as well as the most patriotic, therefore they cannot ever propose either solution.
Another fact to consider is that policies against immigration make travel between countries harder for everyone else, too. Not only that, but it leads to citizens being treated like criminals as well. Although I grant that this is relatively small potatoes compared to the main issue here.
Finally, I did want to address why I usually put the word immigration in quotes. I did not do so this time simply because analyzing the concept of immigration in any detail entails some suspension of disbelief. Immigration is a fictional concept; so are the stories of novels and movies, but we don’t put Harry Potter in quotes when we discuss the story because he doesn’t really exist.