Nationalism and Internationalism in the Immigration Policy Debate
Much of the debate over immigration is generated by the different perspectives of nationalists and internationalists. The internationalists – or one-worlders – tend to seek a future without borders and, therefore, no or little restriction on immigration. Those who see a continuing need to manage immigration to benefit the country, and believe that a nation’s citizens have a right to determine their own destiny, may be considered nationalists.The new crop of far left socialist politicians (as opposed to traditional liberals) clearly fall into the internationalist camp as exemplified by Speaker Pelosi’s reference to border barriers as immoral. This is not to say that all liberals are for open borders. That extremist focus is a recent development, as liberals in the past also supported immigration restriction.Nationalists, on the other hand, generally support immigration restrictions designed to exclude persons considered a public threat, e,g, criminals, and to moderate to flow of newcomers so as not to disrupt the labor market or the absorptive capacity of the state.Unfortunately, there is a strain of nationalism that includes prejudice against immigrants based on their race or religion or other personal characteristic. That ugly strain of nationalism is often seized upon by the internationalist to denigrate all who approach immigration from a national perspective.Historian Jill Lepore, writing in the February 5 issue of Foreign Affairs (“Why a Nation Needs a National Story”), traces the abandonment of nationalism by most current historians and argues that this weakens the country. She also addresses the split attitudes towards immigration among nationalists. She refers to those who approach immigration from an inclusive perspective – insisting on shared rights and opportunities – as liberal nationalists and those who would restrict immigration on the basis of immutable characteristics as illiberal nationalists.From the perspective of FAIR, this is a useful distinction. It separates the policies advocated by the organization – welcoming a reduced but unprejudiced immigrant flow – from those who advocate discriminatory immigration restrictions. The challenge is to make that difference as clear as the difference between an internationalist open borders policy and a national policy advocating a moderate unbiased immigration flow.
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