closed borders and jim crow: branches from the same root
At Aeon Ideas (under reconstruction for a few weeks), I wrote an essay about the morality of migration restrictions. I ended my essay with the following passage:
If anti-immigration laws are unjust, is there a moral duty to obey anti-migration laws? The migrant has no more duty to obey modern anti-migration laws as the African-American had a duty to obey Jim Crow laws. They are simply cruel and humiliating regulations. They should be ended immediately.
A lot of folks thought that this was a misleading comparison. I disagree. No two social regimes are identical, but it is helpful to point out that current policies can be just as destructive and violent as policies from a previous era.
People have also argued that blocking someone from migrating to a new country is like making them wait for a building permit, so it is not like Jim Crow. This is categorically false. When you prevent someone from moving to a new nation, you prevent them taking a job, which costs them hundreds of thousands of dollars; you prevent them from being with family; and you prevent them from living a better life. In cases of people fleeing natural disaster or war, you are accelerating their likely death. Ultimately, any policy that makes a completely safe activity – moving to a new place- into a an activity that might result in death is morally unsound. Jim Crow and border controls are not identical but they are vicious policies aimed at specific populations and the policies wreck lives.