immigration reform is humanitarian intervention

Although it has a distinct feeling of too little, too late, President Obama deserves considerable praise for his immigration speech and his administration’s apparent decision to pursue legitimate reform. (Dara Lind has the details.) Since I don’t believe in the nation state, I don’t believe in the legitimacy of their borders, and even if we must have states for now, the only policy remotely consonant with human rights is unfettered immigration and emigration for all. Since I’m never going to get that, I’ll take the president protecting millions of people who have done nothing wrong in living in this country, working in our economy, and paying taxes into our coffers, often without receiving typical government benefits for fear of being discovered.

I do want to make one point: if you are a liberal internationalist, a humanitarian interventionist, you better be out there beating the drum for this reform every day. You better be going on cable news, spending all of your political capital trying to make this happen. You better take to the op/ed pages and Twitter and every other way you have to communicate. And when you do, you better use all of that same moralizing language you do when you’re making your constant calls for war. You better be just as aggressive in suggesting that people who oppose your preferred policy just don’t care about the lives of people who could be saved, as you do when you are advocating for cruise missile strikes. You better follow through.

Because one of the most straightforward, direct, achievable, and cheapest forms of humanitarian intervention is to welcome people with open arms into our country. The fact that this kind of humanitarianism is so rarely considered, when people are looking for ways to save the world with violence, tells you a lot about them and what they really care about.