The Refugee Crisis: A Call For Open Borders
by Brittney Little
Since March of 2011, almost 9 million Syrians have been left with no choice but to flee their homes since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war. Over 3 million have left Syria entirely, choosing Turkey, Lebanon, Germany, Jordan, and Iraq as their “safe haven.” Nearly 6.5 million have been displaced within the borders of Syria. Since only about 150,000 Syrians have been allowed to declare asylum in the EU, member states have decided to take actions in their own hands by pledging to resettle an additional 33,000 Syrians, with 28,500 of the spots being pledged by Germany. The numbers say it all: we are witnessing one of the worst, most complex refugee crises ever.
As usual, since it’s on the other side of the world, we shouldn’t concern ourselves with it because we have no relation with it at all, right? Wrong. Hey Texans, do we not remember the buses of refugee children that came over the border during the 2014 American refugee crisis? It is estimated that the United States took in over 60,000 mothers and children in 2014 from Central and South America. These children arrived in buses, by foot, and even on the top of trains. They had to travel through extremely dangerous areas and some through cartel war zones. As a parent, you only send your child to travel through that kind of danger, on the top of a train, if it’s better than their life at home. They are forced to stay in one location until they absolutely no longer can. The same thing that happened in America is occurring in the Middle East and Europe.
I believe borders are a form of paternalistic protectionism that have surely done more harm than good. No one, not even the government, should be allowed to restrict another human’s movement; migration is a natural right. Individuals know their own good better than the state does and our personal autonomy should not be stripped from us. We have to stop the demonizing of migrants’ right to pursue their dreams. We must ask ourselves why we see fit to use our rights to deprive people of the right to apply for the same job that we would apply for. We need to recognize that currently, the world we live in allows our governments to simply discriminate against people because of where they were born. Everyone has a right to a safe home. Everyone has a right to a job if they qualify for it. Everyone has a right to move if they deem their current location unfit. We limit other’s movements, while at the same time, we ourselves are quickly becoming one of the most transient countries, with the average person now staying at a job for an average of 4.6 years, according to the bureau of labor statistics. How can we be so hypocritical?
The individuals escaping Syria are fleeing from constant violence, uninhabitable conditions, and poverty. The refugee crisis in Europe could have been averted if these people were free to purchase plane tickets or train tickets to wherever they wanted, something that we take for granted. Against popular belief, 0pen borders do yield a number of benefits, so what are we waiting for? With open borders, refugees can rescue themselves from poverty. The issue with poverty isn’t that the individuals lack the skills, it’s that they are imprisoned in countries where their political institutions or living conditions prevent them from making a living. The poverty is the fault of the governments in control, and the unfortunate fact that some people are just unlucky and happen to be born in a barren region, and because of the implemented policies of their native country and bordering countries, it’s nearly impossible to leave that desolate region.
After migrating, refugees will be able to obtain access to legal, financial and educational systems that can help them develop skills and create long-term wealth, which will drastically improve their life. When people are allowed to move where they wish, human capital can be allocated to more efficient uses, leading to greater innovation, much of which benefits the whole world due to the fundamentally non-rival nature of knowledge and ideas. Contrary to popular belief, migrants don’t seek out countries for their welfare programs. They seek the immigrant receiving country for safety, health, and opportunity. It sounds childish, but I believe if everyone could truly put themselves in the shoes of a refugee child, we wouldn’t ever be witnessing such a terrible crisis. Alex Tabarrok, a professor at George Mason University, nails it when he explains in simple terms, “When someone with low skills comes into Canada, that benefits people in Canada who have high skills as it helps them to focus on what they do best. As I like to put it, a gardener who works for a particle physicist is indirectly helping to unlock the secrets of the universe.” See, immigrants just want a chance at a better life. Our borders are porous to capitol, but impermeable to labor. Let’s take a look at the tax records in our country as an example. A 50-state analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found that roughly 8.1 million of 11.4 million undocumented immigrants who work paid more than $11.8 billion in state and local taxes in 2012, even while they were living illegally in the country. According to the analysis, granting lawful permanent residence to all 11.4 million (as of April 2015) undocumented immigrants and allowing them to work in the United States legally would increase their state and local tax contributions by an estimated $2.2 billion a year. (For more common debunked myths on immigration, you can check out statistics from the American Immigration council here.)
As a Texas millennial, as someone who believes all people are created equally, I am begging those of you in opposition to open borders, to please rethink your position. How can you turn down children who are born into these situations without a choice? How can you turn down an honest man that just wants to earn money? The refugees in our backyards need our help, and so do the refugees across the Atlantic. Let’s set a great example for others, and follow in the footsteps of the people of Iceland. After the government of Iceland announced that it would only be accepting 50 Syrian refugees, the citizens came together and announced they would accept 10,000 refugees into their own homes. Most of our ancestors immigrated to America, so why don’t we give others the same opportunities our families had?