The Problem with Nationalism and the Crusade for Open Immigration

By: Gina Kawas - @GinaKawas - Mar 19, 2014, 9:30 am

Español Nationalism, an idea introduced to us from our earliest years, is not only an ideology but a widely and staunchly held worldview. When growing up, at home as well as in school, nationalism is portrayed as a mandatory requisite that one must feel: love for our country and culture above all others. Our elders teach us to love our flag and national anthem and to embrace our history.

For nationalism to exist, though, a sense of belonging to a nation must also be present. And by nation, I refer to a group of individuals (or citizens) who live in a defined territory and are organized under a legal structure. They do not necessarily have to share similar characteristics like culture, language and symbols.

In many ways, nationalism fosters the sentiment that one’s nation as superior to others, promoting racism and xenophobia. Such sentiments lead to the condemnation of immigration, and in the most extreme of cases, there is even opposition from extremist groups towards the importation of goods that aren’t made in their own country.

If we look back, history has taught us that the emergence of nationalism has led to global catastrophes: both the First and the Second World Wars, for example, represent the epitome of the dangers of nationalism. While there is nothing wrong with feeling some sense of belonging to a specific place, state rulers have used nationalism to justify conflicts and disguise injustice under the banner of patriotism.

The visceral opposition to immigration in several countries, from Europe to several US states, stems precisely from the strong prevalence of extreme nationalism and xenophobia. Political Parties such as the National Front in France or the British National Party in the UK, propose the expulsion of immigrants and the creation of societies where a “pure” race prevails.

Immigration prohibitions, however, hamper individual choice and freedom of movement, whereas endorsing immigration enriches countries economically and culturally, even when it comes to illegal immigration. So instead of creating more and more draconian laws, countries should facilitate the arrival of immigrants — rather than deport them back to their countries.

From a humanitarian and ethical point of view, rejecting immigrants presents a series of moral consequences: it sends individuals back to inhuman scenarios, where they become an underclass whose rights are constantly infringed upon.

Immigration Reform in the United States

The necessity of an immigration reform in the United States is vital. The influx of people crossing the border illegally and risking their lives, especially from Mexico and Central America, continues unabated, and in the thousands every day.

The US response to this situation has been the counterproductive militarization of the southern border in a way never seen before, almost emulating the North and South Korean border. These measures do not diminish the amount of attempts to cross the border, given that the determining factor of migrating is not the amount of barriers in a border, but the economic situation of the country they desire to enter.

It has become imperative to formalize the illegal situation of the more than 11 million immigrants who live without documentation in the United States. A path that leads to legally entering the US must be found, because deportation and the increase of spending on border security (US$4.5 billion) are clearly not an option.

Illegal immigrants chain themselves to the White House fence to protest deportations (2013). Source: National Day Laborer Organizing Network.

The legalization of undocumented immigrants would reduce illegal crossings and the wasteful spending on building walls and paying border patrols. It would also decrease human rights violations — such as shootings at the hands of patrols — and would help spur economic growth: immigration can increase employment opportunities, as they start new businesses, and contribute through taxes.

Recent academic research suggests that, on average, immigrants raise the overall standard of living of US workers by boosting wages and lowering prices. One reason is that immigrants and US-born workers generally do not compete for the same jobs; instead many immigrants complement the work of US employees, generate managerial positions, and increase their productivity.

Immigration allows for remittances to be transferred to the migrants’ countries of origin. In doing so, they contribute to the economic growth and development of the migrants’ home countries. According to the World Bank, remittances in 2005 represented about 25 percent of Guyana’s and Haiti’s GDP, whereas in Honduras, Jamaica, and El Salvador, they were 22 percent.

In 2012, remittances surpassed $406 billion, and they estimated that this number will continue to grow, increasing 8 percent in 2013. Several studies show that remittances have a positive impact on poverty alleviation and financial development in many developing countries.

As for the case argued by many detractors of immigration, who criticize it by affirming it promotes terrorism and a threat to internal security — particularly towards those who identify as Muslim or Arab — Daniel Griswold of the Cato Institute brilliantly exposes that immigration and border control are two separate issues: terrorist attacks by foreigners are not a result of open and liberal immigration policies, but are caused by the failure of bloated immigration bureaucracies to keep out the small number of foreigners that do pose a threat to internal security.

The rapid increase in the number of immigrants worldwide is a tendency that will not stop. In 2005, there were approximately 191 million individuals living outside their countries of origin. By 2010, this number had increased to an estimated 214 million, and it will keep increasing.

So instead of opposing immigration and closing the door to migrants who look to improve their lives through hard work, countries must implement policies that embrace immigration and take pride in cultural diversity, leaving behind xenophobic and racist attitudes, the exclusion of immigrant groups, and the undeserved perception of the immigrant as the enemy.

Gina Kawas Gina Kawas

Gina Kawas is a Young Voices Advocate from Honduras and a graduate student of Latin American and Caribbean Studies at New York University. She has coauthored the book Freedom for the Entrepreneur, published by ANDI and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation. Follow @GinaKawas.

Colombia: Farmers Protest Alleged Violation of Agriculture Agreement

By: María Gabriela Díaz - Mar 19, 2014, 7:46 am

EspañolOn Monday, representatives of indigenous communities, Afro-Colombians, and campesinos held demonstrations in Plaza Bolívar, Bogotá, to demand a new agriculture policy seeking solutions to the problem of land access and greater protection from free trade agreements. The movement was launched following the conclusion of the "Cumbre Agraria Campesina, Étnica y Popular" (Agrarian Summit of the Campesino, the Ethnic, and the Masses), which hosted 11 organizations, including the National Agrarian Coordination (CNA), the Black Community Movement (PCN), the Congress of the People, the Patriot March, the Roundtable of Dialogue and Agreement (MIA), and the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia. The agrarian summit, which began last Saturday, considered eight central issues and compiled a list of grievances citing the Santos government in violation of the Great National Agrarian Pact, which ended the agricultural strikes that took place in August and September of last year. President Santos has taken a very different position, arguing that 70 out of the 183 commitments made have already been fulfilled. The list of demands from the campesinos includes agricultural reform, calls for better access to land, reserve zones, the self-determination of Afro-Colombians and indigenous people, restrictions on mining and oil-drilling, and protection for producers faced with free trade treaties. This last point has been the focus of agricultural groups, who demand the government reverse the free trade agreements, arguing that they have only led to more impoverishment. As part of the agreements reached after the 2013 strike, the executive promised to provide the agricultural sector access to credit and enact safeguards for agricultural products from countries that Colombia has entered into trade agreements with in the Pacific Alliance and Andean Community. However, César Geréz, member of the National Association of Rural Reserves, states that "the agreements signed so far are very one-sided, and in most cases have not even come close to the agreements [signed last August]." The Santos administration has also launched a new program to aid the Agrarian Pact and Rural Task Force through a committee of experts who will make recommendations for agriculture reform in Colombia. According to Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Darío Lizarralde, "the Agrarian Pact represents measures that we are taking to advance the agricultural progress of the country, farmers associations and unions, requesting guidelines and clarity on new policies." In addition, the Rural Task Force will be the body responsible for structuring public policy guidelines in transforming the Colombian countryside. However, the agricultural sector does not appear to see it this same way. Geréz explained that the protests are "a response to the national government's Agrarian Pact that has sought to deceive the rural sectors of Colombia, and it is an organized response to the failure of the government in different areas of discourse throughout the country." Meanwhile, a spokesman for the National Association of Farming Reserve Zones (ANZRC), César Jerez, warned that "if the government does not comply with the agreement," unions will be "obliged to launch a second national agriculture strike." To this end, the government would have one month to meet their demands. However, Minister Lizarralde dismissed these claims, arguing that there were "political motives" behind the agrarian protests. The minister explained that while long term commitments are still in progress, many of the short-term goals have been met. He has stressed that this latest movement is taking place around election time in Colombia, nearly a month from the first round of presidential elections. Should the agricultural strike go forward, it would take place right in the middle of the elections. Lizarralde believes that the unrest within the agriculture unions is likely due to a "change" in the agenda of the Department of Agriculture. "We are putting forward a dynamic agenda, a progressive agenda, and not only with a short term vision, but also one that allows us to face trade agreements and alliances that have been created," said the official. The Economic Background of Agrarian Protests The protest took place a week after President Santos met with representatives of the agricultural sector, and agreed to enact measures that would favor the development of this economic activity. For example, they reached agreements to enable the regulation of prices for agricultural imports, and the issuance of credit cards with special benefits and other associated credit for producers. So, why then has the agricultural industry continued to protest? Ivan Carrino, an economic analyst for the Liberty and Progress policy institute, explains that "In Colombia, rural producers complain that the exchange rate is not competitive. What has happened is that Colombia is an economy that is open to the world and has inspired international confidence … combined with the ultra-flexible policies from the central bank, generated a large influx of dollars into the country. This lowered the exchange rate [a weakened dollar relative to the Colombian peso], which impacts exporters, because now their products are more expensive in the international market. That obviously affects them." According Carrino, a good solution for the Colombian government may be to further deregulate the industry. "This type of change, we observe, can potentially hassle producers, but it can also benefit them. They can now mechanize production and purchase imports, fertilizers, tractors, among other things. If you add to that the free trade agreements, then even more, because you don't just open up the border to buy, but also to sell." However, Carrino stresses the importance of low taxes on the agricultural industry for this to succeed. The expert argues, "lower taxes means lower expenses, so you can place your product to the world at competitive prices. If you open your borders, but kill your economy with taxes, then you will destroy your economy's producers. That's why it's important that the process of opening up to trade is comprehensive and consistent." Translated by Guillermo Jimenez.

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