Saturday, February 5, 2011

Global Migration

In the section discussing global migration and the question of citizen’s rights, Micheline Ishay explains that both globalization and the development of mass media have encouraged countries around the world to focus on the debate concerning an individual’s right to movement. Although a variety of people have migrated to foreign lands for centuries, Ishay defines the three main factors that continue to contribute to immigration: war, scarcity, and the “lure for greater opportunity” (267). Because these issues are ongoing, countries have been faced with the issue of defining the rights of immigrants. Ishay offers a variety of positions that countries have taken regarding immigration policies. Germany, in an effort to maintain its current ethnic composition, generally views immigrants as “intruders” and has established relatively strict citizenship requirements and immigration policies (269). Other countries, including France and the Netherlands, are more tolerant of migrants and have accepted a political approach to nationhood based on universal ideals. As long as immigrants embrace “universal legal procedures, common work, and a shared sense of collective values,” they are allowed to gain citizenship. The United States, which has typically ignored the presence of illegal immigrants within the country, has also adopted a more moderate immigration policy. Many human rights activists argue that, when faced great threats to personal safety, individuals and groups of people have the right to leave their country in search of a better place. But this “right to movement” seems to conflict with other human rights (at least on some levels). The countries that uphold a lenient position on immigration and are more accepting of migrants seem to face an increased risk of violence and acts of terror. Ishay explains that, although they often acknowledge the individual’s right to movement, countries normally place the importance of national security (its citizens’ right to safety) above preserving the rights of immigrants. For example, in an effort to help secure the United States after the September 11th attacks, President Bush restricted tourism and foreign student visas and issued tougher immigration policies (271). In addition, the rights of immigrants may eventually conflict with an individual’s right to culture. “Staunch” internationalists fear that the views of the most powerful cultures will eventually overcome the cultural values of secondary nations, creating a world with universal morals perspectives (277). If countries open their doors to peoples of other nations and are more accepting of immigrants, do they not risk the safety of their citizens and the erosion of their own culture? Although the right to movement should be conserved, countries must carefully balance its policies on immigration with that of national security and the rights of its own citizens. Failing to find this balance will only lead to more war, scarcity, and the lure for greater opportunity.


  1. You bring up some interesting point here, but I'm not sure that the actual "right to movement" is what conflicts with other human rights in cases of immigration. It seems to me that the more common issue in these cases is the issue of legal versus illegal immigration. While I recognized that illegal/legal immigration are issues involved with the right of movement, I do not see them as the same thing. In my opinion, everyone has the right to movement, but there is a mandatory legal process that accompanies the exercising of this right. I am sure that my view on this matter makes the right to movement seem a lot like a privilege, but I think that considering the legal process as a signing of a new social contract will perhaps make it more consistant with our ideas of a right. The fact is that no matter what the right is that we chose to exercise, we have to exercise our rights withing certain constraints that may be legal or simply a part of nature and the environment. Once these people have signed the new social contract, I don't think that it would be a stretch to say that they have, in fact, joined the culture of the country that they have entered into. Rather, I believe that the threat is most prevelant when illegal immigration with a very limited social contract occurs. I'm not sure if the trends that you allude to include the presence of illegal immigrants as well as legal, but I think that the issue should be expanded to consider this distinction. It may be that we need to focus more specifically on issues of illegal immigration rather than the leniency of overall immigration policies.

  2. I agree completely with Perry here. I think that the distinction between illegal and legal immigration is unavoidable in this discussion, and that to leave it out would be to completely overlook the human rights issue at hand. With illegal movement, the immigrant sees the new homeland as his or her own, and in large numbers, may perhaps threaten culture as you put it (maybe), but legal immigration implies a sense of understanding--entering into, as Perry said, a more legitimate social contract--that the immigrant's new home is now his or hers, but also everyone's.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.