Immigration affects national sovereignty

Tasneem Nora Khokhar, contributor

Immigration affects national sovereignty

Arizona Central reports between 5,000 and 7,000 migrants intercepted in a caravan by the Mexican government officials, temporarily halting its pilgrimage to the United States. While hot topics such as abortion and same-sex marriage continue to fuel more division, this is another one that seems to tug at the sleeve of the political debate.

The contention that I can observe now plaguing the media, be it news or the radio, is the conflict of national sovereignty and immigration. A related argument is often made regarding an increasing incapacity of states to control immigration. However, we need clarity about the origins, nature and limits of national sovereignty, or what exactly is sovereignty?

Our beloved Wikipedia defines it as the full right and power of a governing body over itself, without any interference from outside sources or bodies. Some regard national sovereignty as a fading relic of a pre-globalized world yet the concept of national sovereignty challenges the opportunities associated with the movement of individuals who, for many reasons, desire to reside permanently in countries of which they are not citizens.

Factors such as a common culture, language, beliefs, shared memories, sense of a common patrimony and association with a particular territory with recognized boundaries are important. The friction lies when cultures of citizens and immigrants clash. A nation of 20 million people may rightly decline to admit 10 million migrants who suddenly appear at its borders on the reasonable grounds that admitting all these migrants would severely disturb the nation’s internal harmony.

Imagine the public equivalent of private property is sovereignty. Private property has liberty to exclude others from using said property and the freedom to decide how he wants to use his property, subject to the restraints of just laws. Without these powers, private property is effectively nullified, and we are plunged into the tragedy of the commons.

Likewise, if a country doesn’t possess the freedom to exclude those potential migrants whose beliefs and actions threaten the nation’s well-being — such as those with no intention of abiding by its just laws, or those who disdain, reject or want to destroy that nation’s patrimony — then the order and stability that sovereignty protects is undermined.

Therefore, a sovereign state may apply conditions of residence to non-citizens that are not applicable to citizens, refuse to admit non-citizens, or choose to expel non-citizens through legal processions.

It doesn’t mean that a given sovereign state is duty-bound to admit any migrant who simply asserts he confronts imminent danger if he remains in his native land. Nor does it imply that genuine refugees can insist on asylum in whatever country they happen to choose.

But the ongoing difficulties associated with widespread population movements between sovereign nation-states aren’t resolvable in a just way through endless assertions of an unspecified right to migrate.

Unless legislators and citizens come to a greater understanding of the order created by national sovereignty and its contribution to the common good of both individual nations and the international community, our present-day divisions about immigration will only intensify.

Tasneem Nora Khokhar, 18, bioinformatics major, is a San Jose City College student, who has contributed this article.