I’m also enjoying these books because they really speak to this innate, universal urge among (perhaps not all but a significant amount of) humans throughout history: the urge to move. Itchy feet are timeless! (No athlete’s foot jokes please) They did not arise with the advent of the train, or car, or the budget RyanAir flight. Which is why, on an entirely non-political, purely social, purely human level, the increasing restriction of human movement seems, after reading about all these accounts of travels, to be so very unnatural.

Which of course has made me question the assumption that underlies almost all discussion of immigration politics, which is that immigration can and should be controlled. As I have always been one to take issues with assumptions of this kind I thought, well, is there anyone out there saying it shouldn’t, or can’t be controlled? And I’ve started reading a book called International Migration: Globalization’s Last Frontier by Jonathan W. Moses. I chose it because seemed to have a good overview of the issues related to questioning this assumption. I particularly liked the history of immigration it gave, brief of course, but it gives you an interesting perspective and shows just how new this idea is that people’s movement can or should be controlled. For example

  • First passports arose as a consequence of World War I, starting with the UK in 1914, because of the fear of foreigners that war created.
  • Frist US passports were issued shortly after in 1918.

Before then the logic was more like this little quote from Melville (also plucked from above book) “If they can get here, they have God’s right to come.”
It’s important to note, I think, how young the assumption is that a person could not have a right to be in whatever territory she found herself.

Now, I’m sure that current immigration policies are generally inadequate, but I’m not yet convinced of the argument of this book ,which is that all controls can and should be done away with. Would that result in chaos? Hard to say since no one’s really tried it. But it’s something to think about, especially in this world where capital and business are ever more mobile to the enormous benefit of a few in the industrialzed world, while humans are increasingly immobile. Seems unbalanced. Globalization should perhaps be globalization of everything, not just of the capital of multinational corporations, but of people as well, and with them, labor standards, economic power and opportunity, intercultural awareness, and a whole slew of good things.

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