‘Progressive’ control of immigration?

Jonathon Porritt, a well known Green, and Colin Hines, say ‘Progressives’ should take control of migration.

I would agree with them on Green grounds, but they miss a factor driving many who thought they voted to ‘Take back control’

The full title of the paper published by Porritt & Hines is:

The Progressive Case for Taking Control of EU Immigration – and Avoiding Brexit in the Process

To begin with, ‘Progressive’ should not be synonymous with ‘Left wing’. This conflation could be a tactical ploy to stay within the tramlines of current mainstream thinking. It may seem right for unreconstructed left-wingers, but it should not for Greens

This is a very difficult area for Greens. It was inevitable that we would fall into the trap of identifying ourselves as ‘left’, because reducing humankind’s ecological footprint means reducing the overall level of economic activity, and that means redistribution, at least it does if there is to be any vestige of social justice.

Redistribution may even be drastic, but I agree with those who point out that there is much economic activity which does not yet take place, and which will be necessary, but we do not know how much.  According to Naomi Klein, in her book This changes Everything (Penguin, 2015), the neoliberal clique currently in power world-wide certainly thinks climate change will lead to redistribution, or at least that heeding eco-warnings will clip their wings, as evidence the systematic policy of climate denial by ExxonMobil.

But there are aspects of living within one Planet which those concerned primarily with fair shares could previously overlook. Just as the climate deniers see heeding climate change as a ploy by socialists bent on redistribution, many Socialists still see limiting world population, and limiting migration to reduce our eco-footprint as a plot by their enemies.

The Green Party was formed with the difficult task of ensuring social justice within a sustainable world economy. There will be neither social justice for the masses, nor profits for ExxonMobil if the scientists are proved right in their worries about abrupt climate change.

So welcome as this new attempt by Porritt and Hines is, necessary even, I fear it will not convince those for whom it is intended. It is coherent and well argued, and above all rational. But that is its weakness. It does not address emotions. Those who call for complete freedom of movement play into the hands of anti-immigrant groups who feel that they are being swamped. Both are motivated by emotion, not rational assessment.

Workmanlike as it is, Porritt and Hines’ paper offers nothing to reduce the forces driving immigration. Without that, what differentiates their message from those already opposing immigration?

They would be doing it in sorrow, not in anger, or hate. But that would not change the short term consequences, such as the tragedies we have already seen among illegal attempts. They could reasonably point out that they are trying to forestall a much greater tragedy if we do not manage to limit immigration, but there would still be anger at the TV news.

What, if anything, can be done to address the causes of the recent massive increases in migration? We could do more to curb the economic activity driving climate change, but so far it is only devastating communities such as the Sami in Lapland, and low lying islands in the Pacific. There ar still some corals left, and likewise glaciers that used to regulate water supply to fertile fields. In many areas weather changes just add to inexorable population increase. It may be coincidence that the nastier rebellions of Isis and Boko Haram arose in areas of crop failure due to abnormal weather (which may not be due to climate change), so those still making profits see no reason not to, nor consumers to stop consuming.

(Almost) everything seems to make me think of the Universal Basic (Citizens’) Income. Britain would suffer withdrawal symptoms if deprived of the immigration it has become dependent on, but immigration could be reduced, by offering a basic income to everyone, everywhere, to help desperate people not to uproot themselves

The World Basic Income movement proposes just that. However, I have a caveat. There would be a risk that population would expand, which would hardly help to reduce human ecological footprint. So it would be necessary also to offer a promise to all women that their first two children would have the same certainty of growing up as have children in the rich world.

That would entail infrastructure to ensure medical facilities and access to family planning in currently impoverished countries. A pilot somewhere perhaps?

No, of course not. World Basic Income and I are being rational. Calls to limit, not expand foreign aid make more emotional sense against the background of (engineered) austerity. We are even less realistic than Porritt and Hines.

So no, I do not have any constructive suggestions to reduce the rise in attempts to enter prosperous countries illegally which would result from their theoretically sensible proposal.

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