New Internationalist

Open Borders : The Case Against Immigration Controls

July 2001

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights grants all of us the right to leave a country – but not to enter one. So where do we go? What sounds elevated in theory turns out, in practice, to be deeply cynical.

As Teresa Hayter reminds us, immigration controls hadn’t even been thought of until a couple of centuries ago. A goodly proportion of humanity is always on the move, controls or no controls – it’s one of our defining characteristics. Every single society we’ve ever had was created by it. Without immigration most countries – especially rich ones – would simply cease to function. ‘Undocumented aliens’ alone provide an estimated 18 per cent of the construction labour force in Los Angeles, 70 per cent of workers at peak fruit-harvest time in Washington State, 15 per cent of the total US farm workforce.

One by one, Teresa Hayter demolishes each malevolent myth that is routinely peddled as a justification for immigration controls. Even the notion that they protect us from chaos – and the rich from the poor – turns out to be hogwash. Indeed, for this very reason, the abolition of immigration controls is sometimes advocated by free-market libertarians.

The argument here is rather different. When you have been active – as Teresa Hayter has for many years – in support of asylum seekers who are labelled ‘bogus’, stripped of all rights and detained indefinitely without charge or trial in prisons disguised as ‘detention centres’ like Campsfield in Britain, there’s no escaping the essential racism of it all. It is quite impossible to justify such ‘controls’ without conspiring to create non-people and appealing, however surreptitiously, to a racist view of the world.

‘By far the most important reason for opposing immigration controls,’ she writes, ‘is that they impose harsh suffering and injustice on those who attempt to migrate… Immigration controls should be abandoned.’ Amen to that.

Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 336 This column was published in the July 2001 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

Never miss another story! Get our FREE fortnightly eNews

Comments on Open Borders : The Case Against Immigration Controls

Leave your comment


  • Maximum characters allowed: 5000
  • Simple HTML allowed: bold, italic, and links

Registration is quick and easy. Plus you won’t have to re-type the blurry words to comment!
Register | Login

...And all is quiet.

Subscribe to Comments for this articleArticle Comment Feed RSS 2.0

Guidelines: Please be respectful of others when posting your reply.

Open Borders : The Case Against Immigration Controls Fact File
Product information by Teresa Hayter
Star rating4
Publisher Pluto Press
Product number ISBN 0 7453 1542 9
Product link

Get our free fortnightly eNews


Videos from visionOntv’s globalviews channel.

Related articles

Recently in Books

All Books

Popular tags

All tags

This article was originally published in issue 336

New Internationalist Magazine issue 336
Issue 336

More articles from this issue

  • Before Night Falls

    July 1, 2001

    Before Night Falls directed by Julian Schnabel

  • Dead zone

    July 1, 2001

    John F Schumaker beards the dragon of American overconsumption.

  • Syria

    July 1, 2001

    Country Profile – Syria

New Internationalist Magazine Issue 436

If you would like to know something about what's actually going on, rather than what people would like you to think was going on, then read the New Internationalist.

– Emma Thompson –

A subscription to suit you

Save money with a digital subscription. Give a gift subscription that will last all year. Or get yourself a free trial to New Internationalist. See our choice of offers.