Around the world, immigrants are becoming the enemies of those who see themselves as "we, the people." South of us, that rage wears a large orange face. But the disease is creeping north, across the border. Andrew Coyne writes:
Whether it is Kelly Leitch’s insinuation that immigrants need to be instructed in such Canadian values as hard work (“Do you recognize (you) can’t expect to have things you want given to you?”) or Kevin O’Leary’s instantaneously discovered concern for closing the “loophole” in Canada’s refugee system (“Canada can’t afford to sit back & watch thousands of people walk right into our country … pretending to be refugees”) or Maxime Bernier’s weird demand that immigration policy “should not aim to forcibly change the cultural character and social fabric of Canada,” there’s evidently a market for this sort of thing.
The debate is all about the meaning of citizenship and the assumptions which underlie the concept:
One is the notion that birthright — where you were born, or who you were born to — should confer automatic right to citizenship. Heredity is not usually considered an appropriate basis for assigning status and rights in modern societies. Yet while a landed immigrant may live and work here for years without being entitled to citizenship, should you have been born here while your parents were changing flights en route to Mongolia, you’re considered one of us.
The other, more basic assumption is that those born here have the automatic right to prevent others from joining them. Of course any society is entitled to set the terms of the social contract, that is the rights and obligations that go with membership, such as paying your taxes, obeying the law and so forth. But immigrants are not asking to be let out of the social contract: they ask only to be allowed to sign it. That they are nonetheless prevented from doing so, and on no other basis than where they were born, seems arbitrary in the extreme.
And there's the rub. Some of us have been blessed with good fortune. Others, like the millions of displaced people these days, seem to be followed by ill fortune and ill will wherever they go. Coyne reminds his readers that those of us who have the benefit of good fortune need to walk in the shoes of the displaced:
Certainly there is no “natural” or “right” level of population for a country, but if there were it would be an astonishing coincidence if, wherever we were, we should happen to be precisely at it. And yet that is the very thing our immigration restrictionists assert. Indeed, they always have.
If the restrictionists had had their way, most of us wouldn't be here.
Image: The National Post