Saturday, February 5, 2011
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.