Disclaimer: Content on the YP4 blog does not necessarily reflect the views of Young People For or People For the American Way Foundation. The views, ideas, statements or claims posted on this site by members of the public cannot in any way be attributed to either Young People For or People For the American Way Foundation.
Tuesday, Jun 13, PFAW and YP4 staff and interns attended a forum at Demos on Immigration and Voting Rights. After remarks by Demos president Miles Rapoport, panelists Ron Hayduk and Tamar Jacoby
laid out two remarkably different positions.
Say what you want about the Senate immigration bill. I was struck by the meta-level questions that immigration and non-citizen voting raise.
Hayduk and Jacoby did not extol different values or even different political preferences. Rather, the overarching question was one of political theory.
Hayduk is the mastermind behind the Immigrant Voting Campaign, a local organization lobbying for the enfranchisement of non-citizen residents of New York City. Hayduk's comparative and historical research tells us that non-citizen voting, whereby residents who are not legal citizens of a given polity may vote in that polity's elections, is accepted in other modern states as well as throughout much of America's history.
Jacoby countered that the non-citizen voting campaign is a distraction from the higher cause: to provide non-citizens a path to citizenship. She likened non-citizen voting to putting pots and pans under a leak when we should be fixing the roof.
The philosophical underpinning became clear when a wild-eyed interloper charged Jacoby with advocating for a statist international order which promotes inequality and tramples on human rights. This comment scraped at the question that was burning in my mind -- are we witnessing the failure of the nation-state?
Jacoby is absolutely right in terms of positive immigration policy in the post-Westphalia international order. The nation-state and its variants are membership societies which thrive on the responsibilities of and benefits conferred to their members. Without strong borders and comprehensive immigration policies, the nation-state will fail. The influx of non-members who fail to fulfill the requirements for membership depletes the quality of the polity. Hayduk's proposal suggests that by mere territorial residence, one has earned a claim to representation. This is not true in our present system, and I don't know how you would go about explaining that to Middle America.
However, there is something attractive about a truly transnational or postnational world, where borders don't matter, and no matter where you live or who you are, everyone enjoys a minimum standard of living and human rights. This is the broader aspiration -- a postnational world order. My position is this: we can't reach a postnational world order without getting our statist world order to work better first. Statism is a necessary evil, a stepping stone on the path to global justice.
Opening the floodgates to immigration to the most prosperous society would immediately deplete the benefits enjoyed by that society's current members. A national policy of strong borders, managed migration, and social integration is the only answer. Nevertheless, the prospects for our Congress reaching the delicate balance between universal human rights and nationalistic self-interest are slim to none.