Wednesday, May 29, 2019

A discussion on a proposed 'Open Borders' resolution for the DSA convention

[Today I received the link to a "Resolution on Open Borders" posted on Medium that is being proposed for the DSA Convention. As I explain in the comment below that I posted to Medium, while I share the sentiment behind the proposal, I think presenting open borders as a demand, rather than as an aspiration, is a mistake.

[It should not be demanded of countries that are victims of imperialism because abolition of their border controls and defenses would facilitate attacks against them, primarily from the United States. Yet viewed solely as a demand on the U.S. government, it not only would  be impractical but also lead to victimization of refugees and other immigrants in Europe who likely would be expelled and deported to the United States. And in the fight for immigrant and refugee rights, it would take the focus away from the fight for legalization of the undocumented and accepting Central American refugees.]

I very much agree with the sentiment and much of what this resolution says, but I think it suffers from a one-sidedness and lack of precision that would be very unfortunate for the organization to apply -- even though, again, I completely agree with the sentiment.

What do I mean by "one-sidedness?" I think this captures it:
Whereas border and immigration enforcement are tools of white supremacy, capitalism and imperialism
What is wrong with that?
  • Well, are Cuba's borders a tool of "imperialism" or rather a barrier to imperialism? 
  • Should Venezuela not have enforced its borders against the "aid caravan" that Washington was pushing to legitimize "President" Juan Guaidó? 
  • Are we really for Iran not defending its borders against American Imperialism's Fifth Fleet and CentCom troops? 
  • Do we think Yemen would really be better off if the savagely barbarous medieval family dictatorship of the Sauds were allowed to invade and take over the country?
I know the comrades will answer, "that's not what we meant." Of course not. But it's what the text says:
Be it resolved that DSA supports the demand for open borders
Be it resolved that DSA supports the the uninhibited transnational free movement of people....
Be it resolved that DSA recognizes and reflects our support for open borders in our evaluations and endorsement of political campaigns.
Some comrades will respond, "C'mon José, we're in the United States, nobody will think we're talking about some other country's borders."

But if that what was meant, that is what should have been said, if for no other reason that to avoid distracting polemics. (And even then, applied only to the United States, I don't think it is right, as I will explain further down).

But first, as to what "nobody will think," that's strictly from the perspective of an "American" (i.e., someone who indentifies solely as being "United Statesian," to use what would be the English equivalent of the Spanish word "estadounidense.")

But there are tens of millions of us born in or descended from Latin America who have a very different set of lenses through which we look at the world.

As Latinos in the United States we demand we be treated as "Americans," that our undiminished human, civil and political rights as members of U.S. society be respected.

Yet at the same time many of us identify with the sentiments expressed by Malcolm X in his famous 1964 speech, "The ballot or the bullet."
No, I'm not an American. I'm one of the 22 million black people who are the victims of Americanism. One of the 22 million black people who are the victims of democracy, nothing but disguised hypocrisy. So, I'm not standing here speaking to you as an American, or a patriot, or a flag-saluter, or a flag-waver -- no, not I. I'm speaking as a victim of this American system. And I see America through the eyes of the victim. I don't see any American dream; I see an American nightmare. 
And then, as in this clip from the 2015 Latin Grammy Awards, we all sing together the song by Los Tigres del Norte, "And if we look at the centuries, we are more American than the children of the Anglo-Saxons."

So Latinos --especially immigrants-- will look at this demand very differently than most Anglos would.

But there is also a more immediate reason. This is not a demand raised by the immigrant rights movement, not even the Latino immigrant-based left wing of the movement. And it takes the focus away from where it should be, which is on the most immediate victims of U.S. policy: the undocumented already in the country and their families, as well as the refugees at our southern border.

Another immediate reason not to adopt the wording in this resolution is the election campaign. Obviously, given what I've said, I'm not for injecting this demand into electoral politics.

Although I think the way he has argued for his position is narrow and even reactionary, I agree with Bernie Sanders in not calling for open borders.

The U.S. unilaterally abolishing all immigration restrictions would simply be an invitation to the European imperialist countries to forcibly deport to the United States all refugees and even non-immigrants their Trumpites don't want, i.e., facilitate a generalized "ethnic cleansing" that, without a vastly broader transformation of U.S. society, would be impossible to handle and further victimize those expelled from Europe.

You might say, well, we won't accept people who are being forced to come to the United States but that implies border controls, not open borders.

And more practically, it is simply not a demand that American working people, including most of the tens of millions who view themselves as sympathetic to socialist ideas, can possibly understand. Trump uses this to demagogically claim that his critics want to flood the country with cartel hit men, human traffickers and drug dealers, and the way to counter that is to point to the thousands of refugees, minors and families, who are in fact arriving at the border.

While I agree with the sentiment of "open borders," I think it is better expressed as a desire for no borders, as in "for a world without borders."

I think it was a weakness of my resolution that it did not deal with the issue, and have actually drafted an addition to it but have not added it yet because I had already circulated the resolution for signatures without it. I am hoping after the June 2 deadline for submitting resolutions and verifying the signatures there will be some guidance on whether you can refine your own resolution and how.

That addition would be a new point IV under "Therefore be it resolved" and would say:
The Democratic Socialists of America reaffirm that the aspiration of the socialist movement is a world without borders, while recognizing that slogans that point to this ideal, such as “Open Borders,” are not current demands of the immigrant rights movement.
It might seem very modest but I actually think it is important to add it, because I very much agree with the idea in the "open  borders" resolution that
DSA develops political education resources to be shared with chapters across the country to deepen and broaden the understanding of the demand for open borders and how to fight for it. 
Finally, I want to express my gratitude to the comrades who worked on this resolution because I think it is very important to have an open but comradely discussion on these sorts of issues and I believe that the end result in this and many other cases will be converging towards a more balanced and nuanced position, and even if not, a better understanding of the differing points of view in the organization.


  1. Jose, where might one go to get the major immigrant rights groups demands that would be in contrast with those demanding open boarders?

  2. Only revolutionary-minded leftists demand and open border. After all, an open border signifies the abolition of the state.

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