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Social Democracy or Fortress Democracy? A Twenty-First Century Immigration Plan

In 1903, W.E.B. DuBois observed that “The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line—the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea.”[1] Today, more than hundred years later, the color-line endures. One of its most contentious manifestations is the worldwide debate about mass migration. Nativism is a leading edge of authoritarian politics and resurgent racism across the globe. In the United States, it has fueled the fire of Trumpism. Right-wing forces have a simple and emotionally resonant immigration story and agenda. They advocate restriction, foment racism, and fan fears of job loss and demographic “replacement.” In response, center-left and left forces in the United States and Europe have often been incoherent, ambivalent, and defensive about future migration. Unless we can develop a compelling alternative, rightwing forces will use nativism to energize their base and thwart core social democratic priorities such as redistributing income and wealth, expanding worker power and the welfare state.

We need a new positive vision for future immigration that yokes visionary idealism with sober pragmatism, seeking, as British leftist Perry Anderson put it, “a conceptual alternative capable of being articulated across the same range [as conservative approaches], from the philosophical to the technical to the rawly political.” [2] The need for a new approach will intensify as climate change accelerates forced migration from the Global South to the Global North. We are unprepared for a world in which climate change and other factors compel millions more people to flee for survival. The choice we face in the United States of how to respond—with border walls or with a welcoming culture—will be a defining political fault line for our generation. A new paradigm for vastly greater levels of immigration must be a central priority on both moral and strategic grounds. Such an approach is crucial to the well-being of immigrants and to the social democratic project itself.

Beyond the First Hundred Days—Immigration and the Social Democratic Conundrum

The first hundred days of Joe Biden’s administration vividly illustrated a deficit in long-term vision. The administration swiftly reversed many Trump-era executive actions and proposed the U.S. Citizenship Act, which offers a boldly progressive version of a “path to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants residing in the United States. Biden’s surefootedness on these matters reflects the Democratic and progressive consensus against Trump’s harsh immigration policies and for legalization of current immigrants. But the administration’s biggest missteps came on issues of future immigration. It was slow to respond, operationally and politically, to the surge of unaccompanied children at the border. And Biden reversed the recommendation by his own State Department to increase the number of refugee admissions over Trump’s historically low ceiling—something candidate Biden had pledged to do. The administration quickly reversed its reversal, but its handling of these controversial issues was uncharacteristically inept and reactive. Biden’s approval ratings at the hundred-day mark were well over 50 percent overall, but on immigration, he scored 35 percent, lower than on any other issue.[3]

Biden’s unsteady handling of refugee and border policies reflects a lack of consensus among Democrats, labor, and liberal groups about future immigration. Past immigration bills sidestepped the issue by giving the responsibility for setting future immigration levels to an independent commission. Prior proposals set employment-based immigration levels on the basis of political compromises between labor and business groups, rather than any intellectually coherent framework for how many immigrants should come and under what circumstances. Democrats have been defensive about family migration, the main way that immigrants currently come to the United States. Republicans have attacked family sponsorship as “chain migration” and proposed to replace it with a “merit-based” system. Democrats have vacillated about the diversity visa, which has been a main route for immigrants from Africa and under-represented countries to come to the United States. And the Democrats have offered a weak defense of existing humanitarian pathways for migration, that is, refugee admissions and the nation’s asylum process.

From the center-left to the left in the United States and Europe, four characteristic responses to questions about future migration have emerged. They are avoidance, adoption of right-wing frames, criticizing harsh conservative policies without offering alternatives, and, on the far left, open borders. Most center-left parties around the world have combined the first three strategies. President Obama, who deprioritized immigration reform in his first term in favor of other issues, deported more immigrants than any president in U.S. history, but he also protected many immigrant youth from deportation. Hillary Clinton came to see immigration as an electoral liability to western center-left parties, saying after her defeat,

I think it is fair to say Europe has done its part and must send a very clear message—“we are not going to be able to continue to provide refuge and support”—because if we don’t deal with the migration issue it will continue to roil the body politic.[4]

Strategies of avoidance allow the issue to fester and be weaponized by nativists, as Trump’s campaign in 2016 vividly demonstrated. Paradoxically, research shows that when left-wing parties embrace “tough on immigration” policies, they reinforce the strength of right-wing nativist parties by legitimating their views. As Marine Le Pen, leader of the French far-right party, said, voters “always prefer the original to the copy.”[5]

While immigration has confounded the center-left, nativism is the beating heart of rightwing politics. This, too, was vividly illustrated in Biden’s first hundred days. Rather than attacking Biden’s public health and economic plans, Republicans initially led with nativism, falsely charging Biden with a policy of “open borders.” Tucker Carlson of Fox News accused Democrats of pursuing a strategy of “replacement” of white Americans, mainstreaming a long-standing trope of the far-right.[6]

. . . [T]he public supports generous immigration policies, but . . . affirming values of order and control is important for such policies to get a hearing.

Advocates of open borders may be the only leftists who are not ambivalent about immigration. They argue that people should be able to move as freely as capital across national borders. There are worthy moral impulses in open borders, including the recognition that borders set a value on human life based on the lottery of birthplace. But open borders logically imply the end of the nation-state as we know it. In a distant future, we may well need to move to forms of governance that are more global and less national. But in a context in which we need to forge majorities for vastly greater levels of immigration inside the politics of the nation-state, a position that calls for unregulated migration takes us too far past the horizon line of possibility to provide useful ground on which to stand and make that fight. Abundant evidence shows that the public supports generous immigration policies but that affirming values of order and control is important for such policies to get a hearing. We can include the humane impulses of progressive open border advocates in a new formulation of an ambitious, North Star welcoming goal.

Climate Migration Will Intensify the Crisis of Social Democracy

The lack of a shared vision for future migration will become a bigger problem in the years to come. Millions of people will move from the Global South to the Global North in response to extreme weather events, drought, and high temperatures that destroy livelihoods and make growing parts of the earth uninhabitable. The extent of migration will depend on the extent of climate change. According to one leading estimate, in extreme climate scenarios thirty million people could come to the United States in the next three decades.[7] This is not an abstract question about a distant, apocalyptic future. Some of today’s migrants worldwide move because of sudden-onset events like hurricanes, whereas others move because of slow-onset factors such as desertification. The number of people officially classified as refugees (20.4 million) by the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is smaller than the number who move due to sudden weather events (21.5 million) each year. The World Bank projects that 143 million more people will move from the Global South because of climate change by 2050.[8]

. . . [I]n extreme climate scenarios, thirty million people could come to the United States in the next three decades.

Fighting climate change is essential, but there will be a humanitarian catastrophe in our hemisphere even in the best-case climate scenarios. Indeed, there already is. While not yet the dominant factor, climate change is playing a role in the surge of migrants seeking refuge, including unaccompanied children, at the southern U.S. border. Two hurricanes in two weeks and catastrophic crop failures left hundreds of thousands of people homeless and destitute in Honduras. And yet, U.S. and international law do not recognize “climate refugees” or “environmental migrants” as official categories conferring any rights or obligations.[9]

Cruelty Has Consequences

In response to forced migration due to various factors including climate change, governments have generally tightened, sealed, and militarized borders. They have tried to stop migration by force at the source or tried to push the problem south by making poorer countries bear the cost and burden of migration. These maneuvers hide the horrors from a mass public, but the fragile façade inevitably cracks as when the world was briefly transfixed by the tragedy of Alan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian child whose corpse washed ashore in Turkey in 2015.

The burgeoning industry of caging other human beings . . . has increased the number of workers and corporations . . . with a stake in the continued growth of the carceral state.

The vast homeland security state built up since 9/11 has terrorized immigrants, but it has also been deployed on U.S. soil to surveil and round up domestic protestors. The burgeoning industry of caging other human beings, in immigration just as in the criminal justice system, has increased the number of workers and corporations (like Palantir, Amazon, and GEO group) with a stake in the continued growth of the carceral state. This development has driven politics rightward and is a source of votes and money for Trumpism. Department of Homeland Security employees took part in the January 6, 2021 Washington, D.C. insurrection, and the extensive infiltration of the sprawling security state by militant white nationalists poses an existential threat to our democracy. The rise of non-state violence, including anti-Asian violence and increasing numbers of hate crimes, is not an aberration but an integral part of the machinery of racist and nativist terror. Throughout American history, racialized violence through imperialist wars outside the United States has fed racism at home. [10] The violence required to keep largely of-color migrants out of the United States has toxic effects on our domestic politics, too.[11] Perhaps the most profound consequence of harsh border policies is that the normalization of mass death and suffering––whether in the Mediterranean or along the route to the U.S.–Mexico border–undermines the very structures of feeling necessary to nourish and sustain progressive governance.

What Is to Be Done? A Statue of Liberty Plan for the Twenty-First Century

Reducing forced migration requires actions beyond immigration policy. But even in the best-case scenario for climate and U.S. foreign and economic policy, millions more people will make the journey to the United States.

Like Neo in the movie The Matrix, we face a choice: red pill or blue pill? Those who embrace restrictionism, enthusiastically or reluctantly, are accepting a baseline reality of mass death in deserts and people drowning at sea. Many leftwing parties in Europe have adopted these restrictionist positions. In a chilling case, the Austrian Green Party entered into a “Green-Brown” governing alliance with a fascist party, forging a new and ominous path in the age of climate migration: generous welfare benefits and green policies for the native-born coupled with racist exclusion of immigrants. Social democratic politics that greets immigrants with hostility cannot retain its soul.

This would be an untenable moral stance even if countries of the Global North were not responsible for the environmental degradation, repressive governments, and poverty that are forcing millions of people worldwide to migrate. But the west is culpable. The west produces the bulk of carbon emissions that are making parts of the Global South uninhabitable. And centuries of colonialism and neocolonial exploitation have long been drivers of migration from former colonies. As immigrant activists often put it, “we are here because you were there.”

Perhaps the most profound consequence of harsh border policies is that the normalization of mass death and suffering . . . undermines the very structures of feeling necessary to nourish and sustain progressive governance.

Those of us who reject restrictionism begin the discussion about future immigration by reckoning honestly with the history that has brought us to this fraught juncture. We can ground our position for how to respond to the challenge on common values: the equal dignity of all human beings, a commitment to social democracy and racial justice, and internationalist rather than  nationalist commitments. And we have a profound responsibility: not just to be righteous, but to propose a plan that can work at the levels of policy, politics, and narrative. Desperate migrants seeking refuge do not need well-meaning but ineffectual allies. In that spirit, I offer a “Statue of Liberty Plan for the Twenty-First Century,” a proposal that proceeds from the assumption that fidelity to principles and winning are crucial.

The solution to the problem of what to do about millions of people fleeing climate change, violence, and persecution is obvious: welcome them. The proposed goal of the Statue of Liberty Plan is simple: to make the United States the most welcoming country on earth for immigrants and refugees. Although it is contested by white nationalists like Trump advisor Stephen Miller, the Statue of Liberty retains symbolic power and conveys a vision of freedom and belonging. It is part of a contradictory cultural inheritance, and its promise has only been partially realized. But its message of welcome to “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” is a cultural taproot we can draw from. If slavery and genocide are the country’s original sins, its often accidental and distinctive genius has been to renew itself through periodic bursts of immigration. Immigrants have brought new ideas, cultures, and politics that have expanded the country’s horizons. This plan would align the reality of U.S. policy and practice with its most flattering (though often not accurate) self-image.

How might such a plan work? The foreign-born share of the U.S. population, 13.7 percent in 2018, is near the historic high of a century ago, yet it is half the share in Switzerland (28.2 percent) and well below that in Australia (21 percent) and Canada (17.2 percent).12 Under the Statue of Liberty Plan, admission of immigrants to the United States would rise dramatically. If the plan were in effect today, the number of foreign-born residents would rise from the current 45 million to 92.6 million (using Switzerland as a benchmark) or to 69 million (using Australia as the standard). Over the past decade, the net increase in the foreign-born population averaged only 477,286 per year—so achieving such targets over the next decade would require admitting millions more people to the United States each year than we do now.

U.S. admissions based on noneconomic criteria are unique in the world and represent a distinctly positive feature of U.S. immigration policy that should be preserved.

Under this plan, the United States would welcome economic migrants through employment-based visas but also dramatically expand migration through the established family, humanitarian, and diversity pathways. We should also add a fifth pathway to acknowledge explicitly the legitimate claims of “environmental migrants.” U.S. admissions based on non-economic criteria are unique in the world and represent a distinctly positive feature of U.S. immigration policy that should be preserved. By contrast, conventional approaches set numerical targets for “future flows” of migrants based on projected labor market needs and narrow ideas of “merit.” Such formulas tend to reduce immigrants to their function of production, rather than taking the wholeness of their humanity into account. Moreover, they presume a scarcity framework—a fixed pie of jobs from which immigrants take a helping. This assumption is inconsistent with studies of labor markets and with contemporary economic theories about wealth creation. Employment levels and wages are not, as neoliberal orthodoxy would have us believe, inevitably driven by corporate decision-makers and markets— they can be established at levels we choose through public policy and investments.[13]

A policy for vastly greater migration could be understood as a big step toward a long-term vision of a “freedom to stay, freedom to move, and freedom to thrive,”[14] but unlike open borders it does entail limits. Limits, in turn, imply enforcement, but we could take a radically different approach to enforcement, one consistent with our values as law professor Peter Markowitz persuasively argues.[15] The Statue of Liberty Plan requires a massive civic project of active integration and support for new migrants, involving unions, community groups, religious organizations, and others. Done properly, as a great common project of national renewal, this work could have positive effects in many other realms, including strengthening social solidarity and civil society. It could be the key to building a healthier, outward-looking, multi-racial national identity instead of the broken one we are saddled with, forged as it was at conquering frontiers and now at the militarized border.

The plan’s contours are shaped by anti-racist and social democratic principles. We would welcome immigrants as full members of society with equal political and workplace rights. Economic, racial, and environmental justice policies need to be  pursued in tandem with the Statue of Liberty Plan, both on their own merits and because they will reduce the anxieties and biases that fuel nativism. Also essential are policies that redress the ill effects of U.S. foreign and economic policy in driving migration, global agreements governing climate migration, and measures to address the root causes of poverty to make the “right not to migrate” real.

An ambitious immigration policy must be a core part of a larger racial justice and social democratic program. A social democracy bunkered behind moats, walls, and barbed wire will be a fortress democracy, which would be no democracy at all.

Can It Be Done?

A bold, North Star goal is important, but so, too, is a practical route forward. There are few consolations for the devastating Trump years, but one of them is the growing public support for increased migration.[16] Nativism has strong roots, but millions of people have now taken action to protest and mobilize against the “Muslim ban” and family separations. Still, whatever the substantive or moral strength of the case for making the United States the most welcoming country on earth, the majority of the public does not yet embrace it as a priority. To acknowledge this reality is not to capitulate to it.

Every great policy paradigm shift involves changing the story through which people make sense of the world. To achieve a major expansion in immigration, we will need to loosen the grip of reactionary, fear-based frameworks on hearts and minds—stories of scarcity that are demonstrably false but have enormous emotional power. Alternative mental models must work at the levels of both cognition and emotion. A movement to welcome millions of people will have to speak a language with multiple dialects. We need to accept that others may come to agree with us about policy goals but for different reasons. For leftists, the energizing story may be one of climate reparations: The United States has been a climate arsonist, and having burned its neighbors’ houses down, it has a moral responsibility to repair the damage, in part through increased immigration.[17] For liberals and people of faith, the case may be humanitarian—to dispense with debates about root causes and meet the suffering and hardship of millions of people with compassion. For centrists and pragmatists, the compelling argument will be the reality that the United States has entered a long period of demographic decline, with low fertility rates and an unsustainable ratio of workers to retirees.[18]

Enacting a plan to increase immigration so dramatically will require much more than a traditional advocacy campaign. We will need to surmount a distinctive challenge: the people with the greatest stake, potential future migrants, have the least leverage in our political system. Success will therefore depend on constructing a domestic movement for people whose suffering is often out of view because it happens beyond our borders. The best analogy of what it might take to build a domestic constituency for vastly greater admissions is the mass movement to abolish the slave trade that galvanized large sections of the populace in the United Kingdom in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, drew thousands of working- and middle-class people to mass meetings, and ultimately pressured Parliament to act.

For a Black-immigrant alliance to be real, the immigrant movement will need to continue to challenge the anti-Black racism that many immigrants to the United States bring with them and find reinforced when they arrive.

What constituencies could be mobilized to advocate for the admission of millions of people who are not already here? Historically, movements led by immigrants and their U.S.-born children have been the driver for major reforms to the country’s immigration laws, such as the decades-long effort to overturn racial quotas culminating in the landmark Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.19 Over the last decade, immigrants have organized in ways that have transformed the political landscape. The ongoing political metamorphosis of states like Arizona, California, and Nevada has been driven by labor and community organizing of and by immigrants.20 Like previous generations, today’s immigrants have strong ties to their home countries and a deep stake in migration, providing latent political power for an ambitious future migration agenda, although their uniform support for a progressive agenda cannot be presumed and requires sustained organizing.

There are also others who could join a movement for greater migration. The crucial axis for coalition building is the relationship between immigrants and African-Americans, whose fortunes historically have risen and fallen together. The end of Reconstruction was a political nadir for African-Americans, and resurgent white racism drove the enactment of the Chinese Exclusion Act in the same period. Conversely, the Immigration and Nationality Act and the Voting Rights Act, both enacted in 1965, transformed the demography and politics of the country by empowering African-Americans and immigrants. The intense racialization of political discourse by the Republican Party—in response to the effects of these two laws—has created the basis for ongoing solidarity among communities of color. For a Black-immigrant alliance to be real, the immigrant movement will need to continue to challenge the anti-Black racism that many immigrants to the United States bring with them and find reinforced when they arrive. And the immigrant movement will need to prioritize diversity and refugee admissions, which have historically been vital pathways for Black immigrants to come to the United States.

The labor movement’s historic reversal in 2000 of its anti-immigrant stance was catalytic and came after years of internal organizing. A similar effort now could generate support from more unions that recognize immigrant workers as essential to their future. Perhaps the greatest potential new ally for the immigrant movement lies in an unexpected area: the environmental movement. Historically, some white environmentalists characterized immigration as a threat. But today’s youth-led climate movement, with strong leadership from people of color, is well positioned to be a partner. Both environmental and immigration issues require a global approach and consciousness, and the issues are now inextricably linked.

Perhaps the greatest potential new ally for the immigrant movement lies in an unexpected area: the environmental movement.

For years, the faith community has led sanctuary movements and refugee resettlement efforts in the United States, and it is a base of support for future migration. A globally oriented LGBTQ movement could be a key part of the coalition and might foreground the brutal realities facing queer and especially trans people who flee oppression and violence in their home countries and seek asylum in the United States. Finally, while the coalition described here is anchored on the left, to win it will need tactical alliances with centrist and conservative forces—especially businesses with their own interests in increased immigration.

A globally oriented LGBTQ movement could be a key part of the coalition and might foreground the brutal realities facing queer and especially trans people who flee oppression and violence in their home countries and seek asylum in the United States

We have some very recent experience with policy audacity that should give us confidence that this can be done. Progressives can learn from the right’s audacious use of governing power to weaken the power of their opponents and strengthen their supporters.[21] Short-term targeted immigration reforms can substantially increase the power of the pro-immigration coalition and reduce the potency of nativism, for example, by aggressively naturalizing millions of already eligible immigrants to increase their political leverage. While policy reforms from above will help, the most important force for change will be a movement from below that organizes for expanded future migration. Growing, seasonal surges of migration in the coming years will trigger growing, seasonal howling about “chaos at the border” from the right. Instead of equivocation, progressives should meet humanitarian crises with unapologetic calls for welcoming, even if that puts them in opposition to tactically cautious Democrats. We have seen in other contexts how the Movement for Black Lives and advocates for marriage equality, the Green New Deal, and a guaranteed annual income have moved the goal posts of the policy debate by staking out new terrain.

We also can learn from the experience of Germany, one of few Global North countries to adopt a radically welcoming policy in recent years, contested though it has been. The German example offers useful clues on how to build public support for mass migration by building a “welcome culture.” Literally millions of people, perhaps as much as half of the country’s population, volunteered to offer language courses, provide clothes, or in other ways to welcome 1.2 million refugees from Syria. It is true that, for a time, the neo-fascist Alternative for Germany grew in part on the basis of opposing Syrian migration. But far-right parties have also grown in countries that have accepted virtually no migrants. A thorough analysis of the German case by journalist Thomas Rogers found that “the dire predictions about [immigrants’] impact on the country have not materialized.” [22] It’s notable that Germany, the one western country that has at least partly risen to the challenge, is the one that has done the most work confronting its past. Similarly, a reckoning with past and contemporary racism in the U.S. context is essential to create the conditions for radically more welcoming immigration policies. Another lesson from the German experience is that a new narrative takes hold not because of the words a politician speaks—it changes when we engage our bodies, and thereby rewire our brains, in acts of solidarity. Constructing a more expansive “us” is not just the work of politics; it will necessarily be the work of civil society.[23]

The stakes of today’s immigration debate are immense. As political scientist Robert Crawford puts it, “The twin crises of forced migration and far-right, nationalist movements are defining events of our times.”24 The struggle for social democracy will likely be won or lost at the border. If we lose, we will need to look to novels like Octavia Butler’s apocalyptic The Parable of the Sower to imagine the barbarism that awaits us. But a radically welcoming immigration system is not a utopian dream. Not only the recent German experience but also moments in our own history suggest the viability of such a vision. Just twenty-five years ago, legalization of undocumented immigrants (then called “amnesty”) was a fringe demand in the Beltway. It is not yet law, but a movement of millions of people has made it mainstream. As the country is beginning to shed the deadweight of neoliberal and “colorblind” ideologies, we must also abandon the fortress mentality that has characterized the immigration debate. Skillfully engaged, a bold future migration agenda can provide galvanizing energy, moral purpose, and an enormous source of power to make a more just and humane world.

Author’s Note

The author thanks his colleagues at CUNY’s School of Labor and Urban Studies and Robert Crawford for their thoughtful comments on a draft of this paper, and the co-editors and contributors to Immigration Matters: Movements, Visions and Strategies for a Progressive Future for their insights.


Notes

1. W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (Chicago: Dover Publications, 1994), 9.
2. Perry Anderson, Spectrum: From Right to Left in the World of Ideas (London: Verso Books, 2005), 32.
3. See https://www.nytimes.com/live/2021/bidenpolls-approval-rating#biden-poll-numbersapproval-rating.
4. See https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/22/hillary-clinton-europe-must-curb-immigration-stop-populists-trump-brexit.
5. See https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/09/04/why-germany-europe-cant-affordaccommodate-radical-right/.
6. See https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2019/08/06/christchurch-endures-extremisttouchstone-investigators-probe-suspectedel-paso-manifesto/.
7. Abram Lustgarten, “Refugees from the Earth,” The New York Times, July 26, 2020. See alsoRobert McLeman and Francois Gemenne, Routledge Handbook of Environmental Displacement and Migration (New York: Routledge, 2018).
8. Estimates of the scale of environmental migration vary dramatically, based on models of the extent of climactic change and other assumptions. It is also difficult to disentangle migration due to climate change from other causes, such as poverty, war, or persecution. The line between “forced” and “voluntary” migration is also often blurry. See John Podesta, “The Climate Crisis, Migration and Refugees,” 2019 Brookings Roundtable, 2, available at https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/ uploads/2019/07/Brookings_Blum_2019_climate. pdf. Podesta notes that: “In 2017, 68.5 million migrants were forcibly displaced, more than at any time in human history. While it is difficult to estimate, approximately one-third of these (22.5 to 24 million people) were forced to move by ‘sudden onset’ weather events—flooding, forest fires after droughts, and intensified storms.”
9. U.S. law does allow under limited circumstances for “Temporary Protected Status” for people fleeing natural disasters.
10. See Greg Grandin, The End of the Myth: From Frontier to Border Wall in the Mind of America (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2019).
11. On the explosion of corporate interest in surveillance and militarized borders, see, for example, Todd Miller, Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration and Homeland Security (San Francisco: City Light Books, 2017).
12. Gilles Pison, “Which Countries Have the Most Immigrants?,” World Economic Forum, March
13, 2019, available at (https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/03/which-countries-have-themost-immigrants-51048ff1f9/). I am excluding the anomalous case of the oil-producing countries in the Persian Gulf here—the United Arab Emirates, for example, has the world’s highest foreign-born population at 87 percent.
13. See Ruth Milkman, Immigrant Labor and the New Precariat (Medford, MA: Polity Press, 2020) and Mariana Mazzucato, The Value of Everything: Making and Taking in the Global Economy (New York: Hachette Book Group, 2018).
14. A group of leaders in the immigrant rights movement developed a visionary “Five Freedoms” framework for future policy that also includes a “freedom to work” and “freedom to transform.” See Deepak Bhargava, “Five Freedoms: A Twenty-First Century Policy Vision for Immigrant Rights,” in Immigration Matters: Movements, Visions and Strategies for a Progressive Future, eds. Ruth Milkman, Deepak Bhargava and Penny Lewis (New York: New Press, 2021), 151-165.
15. See Peter Markowitz, “Abolish ICE . . . and Then What?” in Immigration Matters: Movements, Visions and Strategies for a Progressive Future, eds. Ruth Milkman, Deepak Bhargava and Penny Lewis (New York: New Press, 2021), 205-220. Markowitz, founder and director of Cardozo’s Immigration Justice Clinic, argues that we should dramatically reduce the amount of money we spend on immigration enforcement, move away from deportation as the default solution to any immigration violation, and reorient immigration systems to help people achieve status when they may be eligible. In addition, we could use a “rolling registry” system to confer a right to petition for legal status after some number of years residing in the United States. This architecture is already part of U.S. immigration law but needs to be updated.
16. See https://news.gallup.com/poll/1660/immigration. aspx. The percentage of Americans supporting increased migration grew from 21 percent just before Trump’s election to 34 percent in 2020; the comparable number who support decreased immigration shrunk over the same period from 38 to 28 percent.
17. E. Tendayi Achiume makes the case that migration in general should be seen as a form of reparations. See E. Tendayi Achiume, “Migration as Decolonization,” Stanford Law Review 71, no. 6 (June 2019): 1509-74.
18. William H. Frey, “Census 2020: First Results Show near Historically Low Population Growth and a First-Ever Congressional Seat Loss for California,” Brookings Institute, April 26, 2021, available at https://www.brookings.edu/research/census-2020 datarelease/. See also Ali Noorani and Danilo Zak, “Room to Grow: Setting Immigration Levels in a Changing America,” National Immigration Forum, February 3, 2021, available at https://immigrationforum.org/article/room-to-grow-setting-immigration-levels-in-achanging america/#:~:text=Already%20in%202021%2C%20immigrants%20are,ill%20effects%20of%20demographic%20deficit.
19. Mae Ngai, “American Nativism, Past and Present,” in Immigration Matters: Movements, Visions and Strategies for a Progressive Future,
eds. Ruth Milkman, Deepak Bhargava and Penny Lewis (New York: New Press, 2021), 39-54.
20. See interviews with Eliseo Medina, Angelica Salas, and D. Taylor, Immigration Matters: Movements, Visions and Strategies for a Progressive Future (New York: New Press, 2021), 72-90, 91-106, 121-132.
21. For examples of steps a Biden administration could take along these lines, see Deepak Bhargava and Dorian Warren, “The Progressive Multiplier,” The American Prospect, March 4, 2021, available at https://prospect.org/politics/progressive-multiplier-how-democratscan-defeat-trumpism/; Deepak Bhargava, “The Statue of Liberty Plan: Vision and Strategy for the Immigrant Rights Movement in the Twenty-First Century,” in Immigration Matters: Movements, Visions and Strategies for a Progressive Future, eds. Ruth Milkman, Deepak Bhargava and Penny Lewis (New York: New Press, 2021), 287-307.
22. Thomas Rogers, “Welcome to Germany,” New York Review of Books, April 29, 2021, available at https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2021/04/29/welcome-to-germany/.
23. Robert Crawford, “The Rise of the German Far Right: Refugees, Islamophobia and Nationalism,” forthcoming, Political Research Associates, fall 2021.
24. Crawford, “The Rise of the German Far Right,” 19.


Author Biography

Deepak Bhargava is Distinguished Lecturer at CUNY’s School of Labor and Urban Studies and a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. This article draws from his chapter in Immigration Matters: Movements, Visions and Strategies for a Progressive Future (New Press, 2021) which he co-edited with Ruth Milkman and Penny Lewis.

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