FOR A BORDERLESS PRAGMATISM. OUTLINES OF A PROGRESSIVE MIGRATION POLICY
By Christoph Spehr
[This article published in Sept 2018 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.zeitschrift-luxemburg.de/fuer-einen-grenzenlosen-pragmatismus-umrisse-einer-fortschrittlichen-migrationspolitik/.]
Public Hearing - Hamburg 28.05.2016 beyond welcome
The controversy over Horst Seehofer's radical foreclosure course was an example of how the migration debate should not be conducted. For most outsiders, several points were abundantly clear: namely, that this internal Union dispute contributes almost nothing to solving the real problems; it is primarily about a power-political dispute in which the migration issue serves at best as a vehicle; the debate is largely tactically motivated, i.e., it is primarily about sending signals to different target groups that one wants to please; it also irresponsibly deals with the question of what these signals achieve in society as a whole; and, finally, one does not know what perspective the Union actually wants to win people over for. For all the above reasons, this dispute has weakened the CDU/CSU politically.
Unfortunately, some of the above descriptions also apply to the LEFT, which may be one of the reasons why the current political vacuum to the left of the CDU tends to be filled by the Greens. For all their criticism of individual positions, the Greens are considered to have more factual relevance and competence in matters of migration. The disputes over the draft of a left-wing immigration law (cf. Kreck/Schindler in LuXemburg 1/2017) show how difficult it is for the LEFT to make proposals for shaping the currently central policy field of the immigration society.
However, the party's difficulties in conducting this debate in a meaningful way are not specific to the party, but quite symptomatic of the social left. The results and controversies of migration research hardly play a role; instead, there are plenty of projections. There is a tendency to exaggerate counter-positions, and the brush is relatively coarse. Above all, however, the real question, which urgently needs to be clarified socially, is not discussed at all: Is the transformation to a modern, open immigration society necessary and desirable? And if so, what must be done to achieve it?
The mass flight from the Syrian civil war is only the occasion for the current social discussion. In fact, the issue is how European societies relate to long-term immigration, especially from African countries. But this clarification cannot be found in the old categories of asylum law; it goes far beyond that.
As is so often the case, much is gained by first engaging with the facts - and with what there is to know about global migration, about the problems and opportunities of immigration societies, including the unclear aspects and the controversial assessments. In the following, therefore, we will first recapitulate some of these facts that a left-wing migration policy must take note of.
MIGRATION HAS ALWAYS EXISTED
Migration has been an important element of world society at all times. All people are migrants, it has just been for different lengths of time. Without migration, we would still be sitting in Olduvai in East Africa, as we were 100,000 years ago. Migration does not begin with capitalism, and it will not end with it.
Global migration has not increased in recent decades. It is relatively stable. Just over one per thousand of the world's population, about 7 million people, leave the state of their birth each year. About three percent of the world's population, about 215 million people, live in a state other than the one in which they were born. The paths have changed: global migration is now distributed among a larger number of countries of origin and concentrated in fewer destination countries than in 1960, for example. The proportion of migration between continents has also increased, but is still significantly smaller than that within continents.
About one percent of the world's population, about 68 million, is currently displaced or has been displaced, in some cases for a long time. Most of them, about 40 million, are internally displaced within their home countries. 25 million are outside their country of origin. 3 million are asylum seekers. The number of people fleeing is increasing in absolute terms, but not necessarily in relation to the growing world population. After the world wars or in earlier historical periods, similar numbers of people were fleeing in relative terms as today.
However, most global mobility is not due to immediate flight from war, civil war, famine, and political persecution. Most do not flee from immediate danger, but set out because they do not see sufficient prospects for themselves at home or for their children and grandchildren. This "perspective migration" is directed, it takes place between giving and receiving regions and states. This is due to the fact that there is no economically and socially homogeneous world society - however, this will not be the case even under socialism. Development is always uneven.
Even with perspective migration, the largest part takes place as internal migration, i.e. within a state, mostly in the form of rural-urban migration. There are no global figures on this. Cross-border perspective migration is the smaller part, but still significantly larger than refugee migration. Overall, between 2000 and 2010, annual net immigration to Europe (i.e., immigration minus emigration) was about 1.7 million people. Between 2010 and 2015, it had fallen to 800,000 people annually.
Most people migrate to nearby states if possible, and to those that are economically a step above the development of their home state. This is rational, because there are more economic opportunities here without the skills they brought with them being completely devalued. However, a significant proportion return home because successful migration accumulates economic and educational capital that can be put to more effective use at home; or because one fails to gain a foothold; or because it was not as hoped. Transnational networks that form in the context of this circular migration contribute positively to migrants' ability to support each other, share experiences, better manage conflict, and develop realistic expectations.
THE INVERTED U
Almost all of today's industrialized and emerging countries around the world have experienced a universal migration pattern in their past: the "inverted U." During the transition from an agrarian to an industrial society, the number of those who migrate increases as their income rises. At a certain point, the migration rate falls again. This "mobility transition" is empirically documented and widely accepted.
A major cause is the demographic transition in all developing societies, which has also been documented. First, the death rate falls, and the birth rate follows with a lag. This creates a phase in which the population grows strongly, faster than the labor market. This was also the case in Europe, where large parts of the population emigrated overseas in the late 19th century. There is a tendency for the demographic transition to take place considerably faster today than in the 19th century. By contrast, all highly developed industrialized countries are now at a stage where the birth rate is lower than the death rate, so that the population would shrink sharply without immigration. Whether this is a renewed demographic transition that will also be offset at some point by a comprehensive reconciliation of family and labor market is not yet empirically ascertainable. The fact is: For both groups of countries, the rapidly growing developing societies and the shrinking industrialized countries, the problems in the transition phase would hardly be solved without migration.
Free migration is not a utopia; it has occurred again and again historically. Here, too, a pattern emerges. In concrete historical cases of (relatively) free migration between developing and industrialized countries - between Mexico and the U.S. in the 1940s, in the British Commonwealth until the 1960s, or since 1986 between the U.S. and the Micronesian states ("Compact of Free Association") - migration numbers went up after the liberalization of immigration law, but stabilized at a certain level.
For the left-wing debate, this leads to some important conclusions. "Fighting the causes of flight" is a correct demand, but not a remedy for migration. Positive economic development and improved living standards in developing countries do not lead to less migration in the long run, but to more. This will only decrease when the developing countries concerned are no longer developing countries, which is a process of several decades.
Similarly, a Europe with free immigration would have significantly more immigration than today - but not unlimited immigration. Even in Syria, where practically no stone has been left standing on another, three quarters of Syrians have not left their country. In developing societies where free perspective migration was possible, no more than five percent of the population left their country over a period of several decades, in exceptional cases a tenth, usually much less. Never "everyone" comes, but more certainly do if the borders are permeable.
THE BACKWARDNESS OF MIGRATION LAW
International law on asylum, flight, and migration contains many positive elements, but overall it is an unfinished and contradictory construct. The French Constitution of 1793 already knew the modern right of asylum; the right to seek protection in another country from political persecution in one's home country. In the Federal Republic, the right to asylum was enshrined in the Basic Law in 1949 (in the same year also in the constitution of the GDR). In the draft, it was to apply only to Germans; however, this restriction was overturned by a cross-party initiative.
The Federal Republic thus implemented the 1948 International Declaration of Human Rights, which grants everyone the right to "seek and enjoy asylum from persecution" in another state and the right to leave their own state, as well as to return there at their own request. The 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees generally prohibits the expulsion of refugees and discrimination against them in the host country. Initially, "protection from persecution" referred only to political persecution on account of personal activities. Since 1967, refugee status has also extended to persecution on the basis of membership in a particular ethnic group, religion, nationality or social group. Sexual orientation and sexual violence ("sexual and gender-based violence") were also gradually recognized as reasons for flight. These expansions were also followed in Germany and the EU. The Convention is considered binding, but there are no sanctions against states that do not comply with it.
Most importantly, the convention only regulates the rights of refugees who are already in the host country. It does not include a right to enter a country of one's choice. This creates the paradoxical situation: one must somehow manage to get in before these rights (to asylum, to refugee status, to protection from deportation) can take effect. Less than one percent of those whose asylum applications were decided in Germany in 2017 were granted asylum on the basis of political persecution under Section 16a of the Basic Law. Twenty percent were granted refugee status under the Geneva Convention, and 23 percent were allowed to stay because their country of origin is subject to torture, the death penalty or war (subsidiary protection) or because deportation would be inadmissible for other reasons. 38 percent were rejected. 18 percent were not decided because their applications had otherwise been settled (e.g., withdrawn applications, recognition of other family members, death or disappearance).
For all those who are not fleeing immediate danger to life and limb, i.e. perspective migrants, there is only a meager international legal basis. A right to freedom of movement between states does not yet exist. Standards for labor migration, which are dealt with by the International Labor Organization (ILO), currently include only the most basic anti-discrimination and freedom rights in the host country. While typical immigration countries have legal regulations on how to immigrate to these countries, such options are virtually non-existent for Germany. German immigration law hardly deserves its name. All legal immigration possibilities from non-EU countries to Germany require that one already has an employment contract, is highly qualified academically, or is simply filthy rich. In other words, if you want to immigrate, you have to come as a refugee and hope that you can somehow stay.
The right to freedom of movement within a state is a human right guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A right to freedom of movement between states exists in some groups of states (the EU, the Nordic states, the Gulf states), and it has existed between various states and their former colonies. It is a central question how a further extension of free movement to a globally interconnected world can be framed in human rights and practical terms. "No border, no nations" is a cool movement demand. But an expansion of free movement in reality will have to be achieved gradually through agreements between states or through the UN.
THE ECONOMICS OF MIGRATION
Nearly all economic assessments agree that migration is an economic benefit, both for countries of origin and destination. It simply makes sense for people who cannot find work in their country of origin to go where there is a need for labor. Facilitating migration would contribute significantly to the growth of global productivity, as suggested by the UN, the ILO, the World Bank, and almost all academic studies (see, e.g., O'Rourke 2009, Pécoud/Guchteneire 2009; notably, there are virtually no serious studies disputing this). This is true for countries of origin as well as host countries.
The ILO has dealt extensively with the effects that migration has on the labor market. For countries of origin, the brain drain, the outflow of skilled labor, can have problematic effects. This applies, for example, to the emigration of African doctors and nurses, which worsens health care, especially in rural regions. The effect is reversed if emigrants partially return and use their qualifications in their country of origin, or if they promote investments in their countries of origin through their mutual contacts. Indian IT emigration has clearly had a positive effect on both sides.
Immigrants are in a worse position on the labor market: they speak the language worse, do not have good connections, do not have the right formal qualifications, insufficient country-specific knowledge. For qualified native workers, they are therefore usually no real competition, except for some very highly qualified areas where a real global labor market already exists (research, management, financial sector, etc.) In contrast, it is generally assumed that there is some displacement pressure on native workers who are poorly qualified, and that the influx of migrants in these parts of the labor market leads to slower wage growth. However, this mainly affects migrant workers from earlier waves of immigration, to the extent that they have not managed to move up to more skilled jobs over time.
This effect, in turn, is mostly offset by the fact that immigration leads to stronger economic growth, which in turn creates jobs. Thus, even in the non-skilled sector, the pressure that immigrant workers exert on native workers and job seekers is ultimately very small or nonexistent. When foreign workers are used in a targeted and organized manner in certain sectors (ports, construction, temporary employment) for wage dumping, it is generally mobile labor from other EU countries, not non-European immigration.
There is no empirical evidence of a connection between immigration and higher unemployment, rather the opposite. In the medium term, receiving countries gain in global market competence, mainly due to the higher diversity and international networking of their workforce.
The money that migrants remit to their home countries exceeds the sum of international development aid several times over. It is a significant factor in poverty reduction in the country of origin, as this money arrives directly, strengthens domestic demand, and flows much more stable than other sources of funding. It does not build roads and schools, so it cannot replace government investment in infrastructure. Nevertheless, emigrants often provide important impulses for the regional economy in their region of origin. Some invest capital saved abroad in the development of companies or trade routes. Others convince companies where they work to open branches in their country of origin.
Generally speaking, the better migration is managed cooperatively by countries of origin and destination and the better migrant networks are able to actively shape it, the more positive its impact. Those who arrive without prior education, are not supported by a migrant community in the destination country and cannot move back and forth between the country of origin and the destination country have an extremely difficult time gaining a foothold in the labor market and developing any prospects for advancement. Migrants who "stand on the sidewalks selling umbrellas," as economist Michael Clemens puts it, benefit neither countries of origin and destination, nor global economic development, and certainly not their own future prospects.
THE CULTURE OF MIGRATION
In recent years, young migrants under the age of 25 have become an increasingly large part of the global migration movement. The cultures of migration have changed as a result. Originally, the model of migration as a multigenerational family project in the destination country dominated: families decided to change countries, fully aware that the success of their action would only be measured by the social advancement of their children and grandchildren in the destination country. Typically, migrants in the host country adopted a politically conservative attitude and a culture of inconspicuousness, which only changed over time. Revolutionary projections miss the reality of migrant existence.
More recently, many migration decisions resemble the way German families discuss where their children will study or receive their education. In many countries with strong emigration, cultures of migration are emerging where the change of country is seen as a necessary, also socially expected phase of life, including the idea of a successful return. The perspective is no longer the change of the whole family, but the use of globality as an opportunity for development. Family generational conflicts in the destination country, usually between traditional values and new social designs, are replaced by the pressure of expectations from home.
As a result, today's immigrant generation finds itself in an increasingly individualized, vulnerable, stressed and overburdened situation. The slightly paternalistic "welcome culture" has reacted to this, but state immigration policy has not. Migrant communities that have already been resident for longer are much less able to identify with the new immigration and tend to adopt a critical stance that goes far beyond classic ethnic conflicts and genuine migrant conservatism. Both the AfD and Donald Trump are also trying to appeal to established migrant voter groups and their reservations with their anti-immigration policies; in Germany, for example, the Russian communities.
OPEN PARALLEL SOCIETIES, OPEN COMMUNITIES
All migrants need migrant communities in the destination country in order to find their way. Integration is a work that is primarily done by the migrants themselves, individually and collectively. It is therefore inevitable that the distribution of immigration in the destination country is not even, but concentrated in certain regions and spaces. This depends both on where work can be found and on the emergence of "arrival cities" (Saunders), so-called cities of arrival, i.e. cities and neighborhoods with a high proportion of migrant population.
This leads to the often-expressed concern about emerging parallel societies. However, parallel societies are a normal part of open societies and are not limited to migrants. To a certain extent, we all live in parallel societies. Our social environment is not representative, but reflects our professional and social status, our cultural and political attitudes. We all remain to some extent among ourselves. This is how we appropriate and understand society, how we support each other and remain capable of acting. The decisive factor is whether these parallel societies are in principle open structures that do not close themselves off from one another, that function without exaggerated social homogeneity and without excessive pressure to conform, or whether they are hermetic spaces that are unable and unwilling to communicate with the rest of society.
From the openness and 'porosity' of self-aware, interacting sub-societies, a democratic, plural society builds its public sphere. Multiple affiliations and transitions are an important ferment of this process. This is the guiding vision, not the atomized society or that of one identity for all. Integration simply means participating in this process of exchange and self-transformation. Modern immigrant societies are therefore also multilingual; this is a condition of integration.
Also, the question of who can speak for certain groups, how legitimate or presumptuous such representational structures are, is not just for immigrant representation, but for everyone. Although I am a taxpayer, I do not find that the "Taxpayers Association" legitimately speaks for me.
The prominent role of cities and municipalities as places where migration and integration happen has so far been too little recognized (see Heuser in LuXemburg 1/2017). They not only need significantly more resources for this. They also need more legal leeway: to issue rights of residence, to allow changes of status under residence law, to adapt labor market instruments and trade law, and to recognize qualifications. If cities and municipalities - and this is indisputable - are the central integration machines, then they must also be able to act as such.
There are dead ends of migration. These include settlements in which a high proportion of migrants gather who cannot find any perspective. Spatial and traffic isolation, poor housing and school quality promote their development. Some have been planned with good intentions, but are unsuitable for those who arrive there. No one embarks on the path of migration to live on welfare in a foreign country for the rest of their lives. But when labor market integration fails, that is the reality of life that catches up with migrants. The much-discussed "immigration into social systems" is rarely the original motivation. As a rule, it is either a business model used by intermediaries or the result of failed integration.
The cultures of migration that emerge here are not traditional ones that people bring with them. They are hybrid cultures (Saunders) that respond to a situation of closure. The transformation of such dead-end settlements is a central task that must be undertaken by the municipalities. They also need resources and room for maneuver for this - and residents who are committed to such a transformation (cf. Pieschke in LuXemburg Online).
MALE-DOMINATED MIGRATION SHOWS THAT SOMETHING IS WRONG
Worldwide, about half of those who migrate across national borders are women. This has not changed significantly since the 1960s. That there has been recent discussion about the feminization of migration relates to the nature of women's migration. An increasing proportion of them migrate alone or with children, or leave the country themselves in search of jobs.
This finding contrasts sharply with the migration pattern currently occupying Europe's attention: migration across the Mediterranean. Here, the proportion of women is 30 percent, and in the 18-34 age group it is even significantly lower. The only reason for this is the extreme risks of this journey, especially the risk of being exposed to violence already on the land route to the coast. Caritas International, for example, specifically in the interest of migrating women, therefore calls for "fair and equitable agreements between countries of origin and destination that regulate international labor migration, guarantee safe movement, and respect international labor rights" (Caritas Internationalis 2012, 14).
Male-dominated groups are a problem, everywhere. It also makes migrant integration massively more difficult. Family-based, mixed structures are a key driver of integration. The high proportion of men (and the low proportion of elders) in current immigration across the Mediterranean is atypical of migratory movements. It is the specific result of European border closure and abysmal migration cooperation between the EU and African states.
THE SPECIAL ROLE OF AFRICA
Improving cooperation with African states would be all the more necessary because Africa occupies a special role in various respects. In contrast to Asia and Latin America, demographic transition, economic development and the overcoming of poverty are taking place there with considerable delay, blocked by a large number of specific problems, including post-colonial ones. In particular, development is not reaching rural regions. The 20 years of structural adjustment programs between 1980 and 2000 undermined the state's ability to act economically, which was a core element of successful emerging economies in other regions, and prevented them from building up their own production.
Although this is now widely recognized (even the World Bank has changed its development philosophy at the time), the EU is helping to exacerbate rather than solve African problems. It is closing off the European market to African agricultural products. It leases African fishing grounds instead of encouraging the development of a fish-processing export industry in Africa. While the EU's trade agreements with the "ACP countries" long accepted African protective tariffs on industrial goods in order to support the development of African industries, the EU has recently been enforcing a radical free trade policy towards Africa with its so-called Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs).
From the left, therefore, it is less a matter of pointing out the consequences of European colonialism, as expressed in the well-known phrase from refugee solidarity, "We are here because you were there." More important is today's misbehavior of the EU, which massively hinders Africa's industrialization and development.
EVERYONE HAS UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
If there is one major commonality among all stakeholders in the EU-Africa migration story, it is the prevalence of unrealistic expectations. Many migrants find that the problems they face in Europe are the same as in Africa: inadequate education and skills, no access to jobs. Many European governments believe that economically motivated migration can be prevented by administrative closure. Historical experience shows relatively clearly that this only worsens conditions for migrants. Many European voters believe that the transformation to a globalized economy, which devalues their skills and marginalizes their regions, can be averted or postponed by refraining from immigration. Yet one has little to do with the other, and the population loss that Europe would suffer without immigration would threaten their economic prospects much more. Many leftists believe migrants can revive their dashed hopes in the revolutionary working class or somehow subvert the capitalist world order. Yet every year some 1.3 million non-EU citizens migrate into the EU completely unobtrusively, beyond flight and asylum, and behave no differently than workers born here. Others believe that you can improve the fighting position of the national working class by turning off the migration tap to capital - even though that would mean massively pushing young people into career choices they don't want. And even though it would make the overdue reduction of working hours unenforceable. And so on.
The problem with unrealistic expectations is that they don't go away by refutation. They can only be replaced by real, alternative perspectives that have a tangible positive social and economic impact on one's situation. Nevertheless, they must be contradicted, and this must be done through a public debate that is as close as possible to realities and problem situations. The migration debate is not per se particularly obstinate in resisting the influence of reality. It is just conducted that way.
WHAT SHOULD BE CENTRAL TO A PROGRESSIVE MIGRATION POLICY
First, Europe needs more migration, not less. Even and especially perspective migration is legitimate and desirable. Migration is not a panacea, but a Europe without or with too little immigration will suffer a demographic crisis of its social systems and its production. Reducing immigration is a disaster program. Instead, we will have to talk about transnational target corridors. For example: 3 million immigrants from Africa to the EU per year, i.e. almost 100 million in the next 30 years. This could be a figure that is in the interest of both sides.
Second, migration must be regulated through cooperative agreements between countries of origin and destination to achieve security and fair conditions for migrants. Just as détente policy was based on the fact that negotiations across systemic differences are possible and necessary, cooperative migration policy must recognize the countries of origin as partners on an equal footing, with their interests at heart. If you want to change something, you have to be willing to do so.
Third, it is crucial that there are legal access channels for perspective migration that provide a reliable chance of safe and promising immigration over a long period of time. This can include that training and preparation also happens in the country of origin, through joint projects (see Clemens 2017). This must also include considering and supporting the return to the country of origin as an important option, so that the experience and qualifications acquired in the destination country can be used back home and thus also benefit the countries of origin.
Fourth, national freedom of movement is a human right; global freedom of movement is a broader goal. It will only be achieved gradually through state and supranational agreements. Transnational freedom of movement is a worker interest of growing importance in a globalized world and belongs on the trade union agenda. Personally, I would like to see my union advocate for more free movement of workers between, for example, the EU and the US. While the contribution of further free trade agreements to global productivity is minimal, as is generally admitted, the economic gains from free movement agreements would be quite substantial. Transnational experience empowers workers, and it also strengthens their bargaining power.
Fifth, migration and integration can only succeed if cities and municipalities (on both sides) are strengthened as crucial actors, supported financially and given greater autonomy. When states accept immigrants, they must also create the necessary infrastructure, and they must do so where the migrants mainly want to go. This requires longer-term continuity, which in turn argues for appropriate intergovernmental agreements. The "breathing cap" envisioned in the Jamaica negotiations (unlimited admission of persecuted persons, refugees, and trailing migrants, plus legal access channels up to a certain target size of annual immigration) was not a bad idea. Only the target of 200,000 people per year was ridiculously low and politically and demographically wrong. If Germany wants to maintain its share of the world population (and thus its economic position) over the long term, it needs about 500,000 more people per year in net immigration. Europe as a whole would need about 5 million additional net immigrants per year. For the fastest-growing regions in West and East Africa, this would also provide substantial demographic relief.
Sixth, the success of a progressive migration policy is measured by whether the goal of global freedom of movement is approached in real terms. The necessary intermediate steps consist of an increasing opening of borders and a successful transformation into a modern immigration society. The social left must campaign for this. Any demonization of immigration, as well as the idea that anything could be achieved without intermediate steps, intergovernmental agreements and regulated procedures, leads politically in the wrong direction.
Seventh, you can only lose a debate that is conducted purely on moral grounds. The EU's current foreclosure policy not only costs human lives on unacceptable migration routes. The desperate images of the struggle for survival on the Mediterranean also feed an arrogant self-image: as if the world beyond Europe's borders were a single wasteland of rubble, with nothing but misery and despair. This image is fundamentally flawed, a new edition of the colonial gaze. An internationalist left must not pander to this image.
Eighth: Right-wing populists can only be beaten on the field of egoism. The policies they would like to see would inevitably lead to a halving of the weight of the European economy on a global scale in the next 80 years, to Germany and Europe isolating themselves from the new growth regions in Africa and cutting themselves off from new economic networks, and to their grandchildren living in a world dominated not only economically by China, while a shrinking Europe becomes a global province. This is the consequence of a nationalist non-immigration society, and its proponents must be told so.
Migration has always existed, it is legitimate, and - for all the problems in the details - it is a good thing. A modern immigration society with a significant increase in immigration is a correct and desirable goal. That is the core debate that needs to be conducted. The chances of achieving this are not bad at all. The countermovement is also so fierce because European society has already changed in this respect. Not everything has become more and more right-wing in the last 50 years. You have to be able to see that, too.
MORALITY, REALISM AND PERSPECTIVE
At this point, we should once again explicitly address questions and objections that arise: Does such a progressive migration policy include free immigration for all? Or are immigration limits morally defensible? What does this mean in practice? Conversely, is it morally illegitimate to express reservations about the desired expansion of immigration? Is the argument that this expansion is in the economic interest of receiving countries morally tenable or a progressive argument at all?
Beyond the unconditional admission of people in need of protection from persecution and imminent danger, a field begins where the political handling of an unjust world order and an unequal distribution of life chances is at stake. Expanding migration is one form of politics to respond to and change this situation - though not the only one. This may involve unilateral steps, but in the long run it can only happen through cooperative, intergovernmental agreements that eventually result in new international law.
Those who have a realistic chance of obtaining visas and safe entry under immigration quotas within three or four years will not risk their lives on the Mediterranean. This implies that asylum applications and applications for admission by flight status can be made outside Europe and are processed quickly, and that legal immigration outside flight and asylum is not only possible and can be applied for by certain groups (highly skilled, sought-after professions, etc.). This is the essential reason why rigid points systems that exclude the majority of those willing to migrate are not a solution, and neither are unrealistically low quotas. But this also implies that there will continue to be illegal immigration - just hopefully much less. A liberal immigration policy opens up prospects for all groups, has legalization programs, largely dispenses with deportations, allows status changes from flight/asylum to other immigration procedures, and also grants civil society opportunities to provide legal residence through sponsorship. But it insists on regulated procedures on how to obtain a corresponding legal title that enables legal residence. "Open borders" will mean "permeable borders" for the foreseeable future - with legal immigration, bilateral agreements for visa-free entry, options for different social groups, but not "no borders."
The social debate about what is morally acceptable and what is not will continue, and it must continue. The position of not accepting any immigration beyond flight and asylum is on very thin moral ground. One can have the desire to "keep to oneself." But this remains a morally weak justification to those who, in extremely difficult economic situations, see no other perspective than to emigrate. In the same way, however, one must expect those who are in favor of opening up to give realistic answers as to how this should be done and what exactly they have in mind.
One must also wish for more clarity with regard to the frequently invoked, but rarely carried out wishes for a "class-political classification". It is true: the struggle for the recognition of migration politically also strengthens other struggles for recognition, diversity, social plurality - there is a common front of recognition struggles against a "Leitkultur". In contrast, the relationship to class-political struggles is more complicated. That is why it is easier for some to be in favor of opening up than for others. Class politics that wants to do justice to migration and a proletarian class with a stronger migrant composition must change. This includes a commitment to lower wage limits through "living wages," to effective state control of labor law, to the removal of formal barriers to advancement; greater openness to the approximated class situation of the small self-employed and dependent employees; an understanding of the "status paradox of migration" and its sometimes-dazzling class situation.
There is an overall task today: the transformation of the existing mode of production into one that fits within the ecological limits of the planet, at the highest possible level of prosperity and with as few misery-inducing ruptures as possible along the way. The "old" highly developed industrialized countries have an important function to fulfill in this process. They must contribute their productive, knowledge-based and creative advantages and resources; they are needed. The retreat to a new isolationism à la Trump, which wants to consume old wealth cushions and avoid economic structural change, is the real national egoism. The political task of how old industrial economies develop their potential for growth, absorption of labor and post-industrial structural change and what they can thus contribute to solving global problems (including demographic ones) must also be faced by the social left. This is necessary for an internationalist perspective. From there, there is no path to positions that discuss immigration exclusively in terms of its usefulness for the receiving countries. But there is also no way to the idea that the economic future of the globally privileged societies need not concern one from the left. Left-wing migration policy also belongs in the context of global transformation. Its point of reference is the prosperity of all, but it also needs a commitment to cooperative, regulatory shaping of transitions.
In the end, it is again quite simple. Between arbitrary immigration and limiting immigration lies "more immigration." Progressive migration policy must agree on this. It is to be expected that the social debate on "migration yes or no" will soon be replaced by a debate on whether migration should be managed in a national-chauvinistic and short-sighted way according to the interests of influential groups, or in a solidarity-based and long-term way with reference to the interests of all, especially the globally disadvantaged. The left can only conduct this debate if it has managed to take the leap into a positive, realistic relationship to migration.
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1] The ACP Group is an international organization of currently 79 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific - mostly former colonies of France and Great Britain. Its main goals are the sustainable development of its member countries, their integration into the world economy, and the establishment of a "new, fair and more equitable world order."
Christoph Spehr is a politician and author. Until November 2015, he was spokesman for the Bremen state association of the LEFT. His publications include Die Aliens sind unter uns! (1999).