Migrant Cosmopolitanism (A Talk Given at Lund University, Sweden)

 

Here is the talk I gave today at Lund University, Sweden.

Image result for no one is illegal

Introduction

The twenty-first century will be the century of the migrant. At the turn of the twenty-first century, there were more migrants than ever before in recorded history. Today there are over 1 billion migrants. Migration has risen by nearly 50 percent since the turn of the 21st century and more than 56,000 migrants have died or gone missing worldwide over the last four years. More than ever, it is becoming necessary for people to migrate due to environmental, economic, and political instability. In particular, climate change will significantly increase international migration over the next forty years [although figures on this are too complex to know]. What is more, the percentage of total migrants who are nonstatus or undocumented is also increasing, thus posing a serious challenge to democracy and political representation.4

[EX: I think we will see a lot more movements like the migrant caravan in the future. Complex causes: It is partially caused by climate change, US imperialism, political violence, poverty, etc. vs. right wing nationalism. Trump has brought 6,000 national military violating posse commitatas. He has said they will shoot, he has declared a “refugee ban,” “invasion.”]

The phenomenon of migration thus presents a unique problem for political theory. If citizenship and legal equality are the concepts by which many nation-states and liberal democracies understand the political agency and rights of a people, what does this mean for the 15–20 percent of people living in countries like the united States, for example, without full status? It means that a continually increasing population of migrants with partial or no status are now subject to a permanent structural inequality—the lack of voting and labor rights, possible deportation, and other deprivations, depending on the degree of status. This is difficult to reconcile with almost any political theory of equality, universality, or liberty. The fact that hundreds of millions of human beings are currently living outside their country of origin as a result of migration and frequent relocation should dramatically challenge the conditions of political life assumed by political philosophers.

Unfortunately, much of political theory has either been unwilling to acknowledge the structural nature of this exception with respect to the territorial nation-state. If we want to understand the prospects for a truly global community, we have to move beyond the critiques of citizenship, nationalism, and liberalism, and propose an approach that will not structurally exclude the millions of migrants and refugees of the world. We must create what I propose to call a “migrant cosmopolitanism.”

Thesis           

In this paper I want to do three things: Part I: Give a brief history and criticism of political theory (Aristotle) and modern cosmopolitanism (Kant and the Republican tradition). Part II: Propose two defining features of what I call “Migrant Cosmopolitanism” or “social transformation from below.”: (Sanctuary and Solidarity).

 Part I: From Polis to Cosmopolis

 Aristotle

Aristotle articulates an exclusion at the heart of Western politics clearly. For Aristotle, political status is fundamentally tied to one’s inclusion in the polis. for those who do not have a polis, Aristotle reserves the term βάρβαρον(barbaron, barbarian). The Greek word βάρβαρος(barbaros) originates from the onomatopoetic sound of the babbling of the foreigner who does not speak Greek. In this way, the determination of the “nature” of the barbarian migrant is already relative to a geographical and political center: the Greek polis. Barbarism is thus a political determination. With respect to the center, the periphery is barbarian, mobile, migrant, diffuse, inferior, unintelligible, and so on. Accordingly, the antonym for the Greek word barbaros was civis or polis—both words that applied to cities. The barbarian is the “non-Greek, noncity-dweller.”

But what makes the barbarians inferior is not only their non-Greek status (although most non-Greeks also did not speak Greek), but their inability to use political speech and reason (logos) that were politically bound to the specifically Greek logos. Thus the figure of the migrant barbarian unites three concepts tied to the polis: (1) the inability to speak the language of the polis (Greek), (2) the inability to use the reason of the polis (logos), and (3) an excessive geographical mobility in relation to the polis.

Above all, the term “barbarism” designates a political inferiority: a natural incapacity for proper speech and reason that disallows political life [ex: national anthem in Spanish]. If people do not have a city-state, then they cannot possibly have political rationality, and vice versa. for Aristotle, barbarians are those whose temporary encampments, mobility, and even geographical distance from the polis create a natural inferiority. As Herodotus states, “[i]nstead of establishing towns or walls, they are all mounted archers who carry their homes along with them and derive their sustenance not from cultivated fields but from their herds.” The barbarian is the social figure whose inferior migrant motion outside the polis is ultimately enslaved in order to expand the rising political and military power of the state.

However, if the origins of politics are found in the exclusionary walls of the polis, the origins of cosmopolitanism can be found conversely in the opening of the city walls—and of political membership itself—to the entire world. In contrast to the parochial polis or walled city, the kosmopolis is the political community that is open to the world. There are at least two major types of modern cosmopolitanism. unfortunately, both types fail to fully account for the inclusion of one of the fastest growing groups of disenfranchised peoples in the world: migrants.

 

Kant

The first modern theory of cosmopolitanism was developed by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant in the eighteenth century. Kant argues that the progress of human history can be defined precisely by our capacity to increasingly open up our city walls so “that which nature has as its highest aim, a universal cosmopolitan condition, can come into being, as the womb in which all the original predispositions of the human species are developed.” Since the invention of the ancient polis, human societies have slowly become more inclusive and should continue to do so, Kant argues.

Unfortunately, Kant’s cosmopolitanism is limited by his privileging of history and time over the figures of migration and motion. For Kant, historical progress is accomplished insofar as humans struggle through their natural antagonisms with one another and as a result, “advance [their use of reason] gradually from one stage of insight to the next.” Through this antagonism, “the greatest problem for the human species, to which nature compels it to seek a solution is the achievement of a civil society which administers right universally.” However, this same unsociability that compels humans to abandon the lawless state of savagery and enter civil society also compels them to abandon the “barbarous freedom of the already established states” and establish “law-governed external relations between states.” Thus humans develop this “concealed plan of nature” through the two interlocking forms of right: constitutional right and international right. But what of migrants, nomads, and those without or between states? How can universal right be realized while there are still people who exist outside these laws or as nonmembers of states?

The third form of right that Kant creates to deal with these people is cosmopolitan right—achieved through universal hospitality. While Kant is quite clear that migrants do not have the “rights of a guest . . . (which would require a special, charitable contract stipulating that he be made a member of the household for a certain period of time),” the migrant does have the right to visit, to which all human beings have a claim, to present oneself to society by virtue of the “right of common possession of the surface of the earth. Since it is the surface of a sphere, they cannot scatter themselves on it without limit, but they must rather ultimately tolerate one another as neighbors, and originally no one has more of a right to be at a given place on earth than anyone else.” universal cosmopolitan right or “the right of everyone to the surface” is essential for the historical progress of humanity. If states or persons ignore this right, then they reject the universal progress of human reason.

However, while Kant’s gesture of visitation seems more inclusive than Aristotle’s, its exclusion is actually much more radical. for Aristotle, alien migrant residents can still reside in the polis, and they can even participate in office via prostatēs (sponsors).28 for Kant, migrants, nomads, and strangers are not even guests allowed inside a household, much less allowed to participate in political life; they are only visitors to the spatial exterior or “surface of the earth.” Just as time is the inner form that provides the unity of the subject in Kant’s transcendental aesthetic, so political time (history) provides the unity and progress of reason. for Kant, migrants, nomads, and other non-citizens are only allowed temporary access to the territory of a state: visitation (Besuchsrecht), not residence (Gastrecht). Kant’s right of cosmopolitan hospitality may protect nomads and migrants from slavery but only through their ahistoricity at the hands of the true movers of cosmopolitan history: citizens and states.

Therefore Kant’s theory of cosmopolitanism does not resolve the structural exclusion of migrants; it only alleviates it temporarily. contemporary proponents of the “federation of democratic states and societies,” such as David Held, encounter a similar problem. More often than not, cosmopolitan institutions composed of nation-states exist to protect the interests of citizens and states above and at the expense of migrants and the stateless. for example, the united Nations, an institution similar to what Kant had in mind, defines the right to leave a territory as a human right, but not the right to enter a territory. In short, powerful nation-states want to protect their wealth from the global poor. Another example: the united Nations Migrant Workers convention, signed by many states, provides basic rights and protections for migrants with status, but deliberately excludes rights for nonstatus migrants for the same reasons as above.30 Thus the cosmopolitanism of nation-states is not enough to protect or include all global migrants.

 

Republican cosmopolitanism

In response to this, the second major type of cosmopolitanism proposes that global institutions such as nongovernmental organizations (NGos) and transnational corporations would be more capable of implementing a civic set of cosmopolitan laws based on global justice and shared humanity than nation-states biased by their own parochial interests. This “civic cosmopolitanism,” however, only displaces the problem of requiring benevolent and knowledgeable lawmakers in these institutions as the sufficient condition for cosmopolitan inclusion. It is certainly true that NGos and other global institutions are capable of following principles of global justice, and in some cases, better than nation-states. But the proliferation of global migrants and refugees cannot be resolved by NGos like the Red cross in tent cities and refugee camps. In fact, rather than increasingly including migrants and refugees in political membership, humanitarian camps accomplish precisely the opposite: they depoliticize migrants and refugees by treating them as mere human beings. Refugee camps provide food and shelter, but they do not provide political voice and agency for their populations. Global institutions do not have the power to include stateless people in political membership. This is the danger of cosmopolitan institutions—that everyone becomes a mere human body to be managed in a camp. It is true that global institutions provide an important cosmopolitan role that should be increasingly regulated, but global institutions alone are not sufficient to protect or include global migrants.

A third option would be to combine both democratic and civic cosmopolitanism into a “three-tiered system of political authority.” Political decision making could come from subnational entities like cities, nation-states, and supranational institutions like the European union and the united Nations. Many theorists have formulated some combinatory version of this thesis.

However, the combination of multiple cosmopolitan law-creating institutions, while important, in principle still does not allow us to understand the most basic aspect of how those without the “rights to have rights,” like many migrants, come to attain cosmopolitan rights in the first place: through political struggle. Any theory of cosmopolitanism that focuses exclusively on the power of democratic leaders and their institutions to create laws of inclusion for dispossessed peoples is fundamentally inadequate. cosmopolitanism is not just about the creation of globally fair and inclusive laws and institutions; it is more importantly about the popular struggles required to demand and win those laws in the first place.

Part II: Migrant Cosmopolitanism

Sanctuary

The first major tactic of this migrant cosmopolitanism is sanctuary. Before any larger social or legal changes are instituted, sanctuary will likely be required to defend migrants, and provide the first sites of collective resistance. Migrant sanctuary has a very long history, going all the way back to the fourth century, originating as a religious institution. Even today it is churches, more than anywhere else, that have maintained a space of juridical exception where the law of the state does not apply and where the police are not allowed, either by law or by historical convention. Related to but distinct from this religious tradition, the proliferation of sanctuary cities around the turn of the twenty-first century is a clear indication of a growing social desire to protect undocumented migrants and refugees seeking asylum. Sanctuary cites are cities that limit their cooperation with federal immigration enforcement in one way or another. On one end of the spectrum there are cities like Denver which does not officially call itself a sanctuary, but is still considered by ICE to be a sanctuary city because it does not enforce immigration policy or ask people about their legal status and share that information with ICE.[i]On the other side there are cities like San Francisco that not only make it illegal for municipal entities to cooperate with federal immigration but also forbid city employees to limit city services or benefits based on immigration status.[ii]

In 2017, President Trump signed an executive order to remove federal funding to all sanctuary cities. The recent rise of sanctuary spaces of all kinds, #SanctuaryRising, #SanctuaryCampus and others after President Trump’s aggressive proposal to deport millions of migrants from the U.S., and executive orders to defund sanctuary cities and block refugees to the US, are an important continuation of this very basic gesture of protection that had its first major political demonstration in the 1996 French Sans Papiers(without papers) movement.[iii]

One of the most important recent historical events of migrant cosmopolitanism is the sans papiersmovement in France. In 1996, the first autonomous organization of undocumented migrants was formed in France against the anti-immigrant Pasqua Laws. On March 18, 1996, 324 Africans, including 80 women and 100 children, occupied the church of Saint Ambroise and demanded the regularization of their immigration status. Four days later, on March 22nd, the police evicted the sans-papiersfrom Saint Ambroise, an action authorized by the church. Soon after, there were two large public demonstrations in Paris in support of the sans-papiers, and in June the government regularized twenty-two of the original Saint Ambroise demonstrators. Because of the clear public support for the Saint Ambroise sans papiersand their partial regularization, their struggle lead to the creation of more than twenty-five sans-papierscollectives in France. In Lille and Versailles, hunger strikes were conducted that in some cases led to regularization.[iv]However, by far the most well-publicized sans-papiersoccupation was the occupation of Saint Bernard Church in Paris later that year, beginning on June 28th. Three hundred undocumented Africans occupied the church and demanded regularization. Ten men went on hunger strikes in the church for fifty days, and set up the Coordination Nationale des Sans-Papiers (Sans-Papiers National Coordinating Committee). Saint Bernard Church was occupied from June 28th until August 23, 1996, until riot police violently broke down the church doors with axes, using tear gas on mothers and babies, and dragged everyone out. That night, 20,000 people marched in the streets to support the sans-papiers. By January 1997, 103 of the original 324 had received temporary papers, 19 had been deported, and 2 were jailed.[v]

After the Saint Bernard occupation, sans-papiersoccupations only increased across France. As the left and right political parties prepared for elections in June 1997, the right attempted to distinguish its party with the anti-immigrant Debré laws. Among other things, these laws required anyone who allowed a foreigner to stay in their residence to report this to the local town hall or they would be charged with aiding and abetting a “illegal” (clandestine). Following the first application of this law by a French woman living with a sans-papiersin Lille, sixty-six filmmakers called for a massive civil disobedience protest against the Debré law. Soon after, daily newspapers published lists of writers, artists, scientists, university teachers, journalists, doctors, and lawyers, all offering to accommodate foreigners without asking for papers. On February 22, 1997, 100,000 people demonstrated in Paris against Debré. In March 1998, the sans-papiersoccupied the Notre Dame de la Gare and Saint Jean de Montmartre churches, and later others marched from Toulouse to Paris, demanding “Regularization for all!” Cosmopolitanism did not happen in the voting booths; it happened in the streets and emerged from sanctuary spaces.

After many years, the sans-papierswon several important battles for their papers, rights, and inclusion in French society, yet there is still much to be done. These rights were not won simply because of beneficent leaders with broad ideas about cosmopolitan justice; these rights were won by starving migrants who were publicly beaten, experienced racial discrimination, and expelled by the police. These rights were won because hundreds of thousands of French people said they would rather break the unjust laws against harboringsans-papiersthan turn their back on their fellow humans. This is migrant cosmopolitanism.

 

Solidarity

The second major tactic along the path to migrant cosmopolitanism is solidarity. By solidarity, I mean not only a feeling of kinship, but specific tactics that go beyond the non-cooperation and protectionism of sanctuary practices. In particular, I mean the active organization of migrant justice social groups and demonstrations by migrants and allies including, but not limited to, the extension of social service provision to partial and non-status migrants such as free clinics, Doctors Without Borders, Lawyers Without Borders, safe houses, food and water provision like No More Deaths, Casa de Paz, No Borders camps, and many others; providing cell phone maps to help Mexican migrants survive the desert and avoid border patrol like the Transborder Immigrant Toolin the U.S. and the InfoAidApp to help refugees navigate their way through Europe. I use the term “solidarity city” or “solidarity organizations” to distinguish groups that actively help, support, or treat as equal in one way or another, partial and non-status migrants. In other words, while many sanctuary cities and organizations in the US do not require city employees to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement, not all cities actively make this illegal and not all (non-municipal) organizations in the city actively provide services to non-status migrants or publicly support them. Instead of waiting for a borderless world the solidarity city is an attempt to start making one now.

The creation of solidarity cities for migrants is of course continuous with the sanctuary legacy. The creation of sanctuary cities and asylum is as old as slavery itself; today cities all over the world choose not to enforce federal and state immigration laws in their cities. The solidarity city is a more radical incarnation of the practice of modern church sanctuary that emerged across North America in the 1980s, in response to U.S. foreign policy and civil war in Central America. The idea of entire sanctuary cities has now spread to thirty-one cities in the United States and many others around the world. While top-down “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) city immigration policies may be legally binding at the local level, they often do not stop police, service providers, and individuals in the city from reporting non-status persons directly to federal immigration enforcement. So while many sanctuary cities of the United States may directly discourage police from helping immigration officials because it is “not their responsibility,” they often can and do. DADT is thus a precarious policy that always risks betrayal to the federal level. This is why DADT must become a matter of solidarity, similar to the underground railroads of the United States in the nineteenth century. Sanctuary practices that merely discourage working with federal immigration are not enough. We need solidarity practices that seek out ways to help non-status migrants through active city provisioning of services, a culture of popular antagonism against federal immigration enforcement, and specific organizations dedicated to supporting non-status migrants.

One recent attempt to coordinate this kind of effort and move beyond mere city sanctuary ordinances began in Toronto in 2009 and spread to Montréal and others.[vi]In 2013, Toronto became the first Canadian city with a formal policy allowing undocumented migrants to access services regardless of immigration status.[vii]The solidarity city movement is a migrant justice movement to (1) ensure that all city residents, including people without full immigration status, can access essential services, such as housing, health, education, social services, and emergency services, without fear of being detained or deported; (2) ensure that municipal funds and city police are not used to support federal immigration enforcement; and (3) ensure that residents of the city are not required to provide proof of immigration status to obtain services, and if such information was discovered it could not be shared with federal immigration enforcement. But the goal of the solidarity city is not just a legal formality—it is a social and political project to network with other community organizations to establish organizations that actively assist non-status migrants, including clinics, schools, food banks, and women’s shelters that will (1) provide access to anyone regardless of status, (2) have frontline staff who adhere to this commitment and will be sensitive to non-status issues, and (3) create a larger culture of antagonism with federal immigration enforcement and solidarity with precarious migrants.[viii]

The density and diversity of migrants in the city of Toronto make it a particularly fecund milieu for the creation of a solidarity city network. With over eighty different ethnicities and more than half of its city population born outside the country, Toronto is demographically the most diverse city in the world.[ix]An estimated 500,000 non-status persons live in Canada, and Toronto is home to more than half of them.[x]The Toronto migrant justice group, No One Is Illegal,has taken the idea of sanctuary cities one step further. NOII first began in Germany in 1997, inspired by the sans-papiersorganizations in France, and has spread to countries all over the world. NOIIcalls for the regularization of all non-status persons, an end to deportations, an end to the detention of migrants and refugees, and the abolition of security certificates.[xi]NOII’s strategy is pre-figurative insofar as it is aims to build a solidarity city in which all the institutions and people of the city agree to serve and protect everyone, regardless of papers. The aim is to mobilize the whole population of the city in collective civil disobedience against the Canadian government’s immigration policies, effectively building the cosmopolis that they envision without waiting for the state.[xii]

This is what we need to try and do now for the migrant caravan in the US.

 In conclusion, republican cosmopolitanism is only part of cosmopolitanism— the most reactionary part. The true agents and movers of cosmopolitan history and politics have always been, and continue to be, migrants.

 

 

Notes

[i]“But in some key ways, Denver has taken a moderate tack. Most notably, the measure agreed upon this month by Mayor Michael Hancock and its City Council sponsors maintains the sheriff’s practice of giving U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement a heads-up before releasing inmates wanted on a detainer.” Noelle Phillips, Denver Post, September 28, 2017. http://www.denverpost.com/2017/09/28/denver-immigration-sweep-arrest-sanctuary-city-ice-hancock/

[ii]http://sfgov.org/oceia/sanctuary-city-ordinance-0

[iii]An earlier “sanctuary movement” occurred in the US during the 1980s to house central American political refugees in churches.

[iv]Teresa Hayter, Open Borders, 144.

[v]Teresa Hayter, Open Borders, 144.

[vi]Earlier efforts to radicalize the sanctuary city by provision ordnances can also be seen in US cities like San Francisco and New York that actively forbid city employees to work with federal immigration and to withhold social services. Thomas Nail, et al. “Building Sanctuary City: No One is Illegal–Toronto on Non-Status Migrant Justice Organizing,”Upping the Anti: A Journal of Theory and Actionno. 11 (2010): 149–162.

[vii]Nicholas Keung, “Toronto declared ‘sanctuary city’ to non-status migrants,” The Toronto Star. Fri., Feb. 22, 2013. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2013/02/21/cisanctuarycity21.html

[viii]DADT policies still need solidarity.

[ix]Nicholas Keung, “A city of unmatched diversity,” The Toronto Star. Wed., Dec. 5, 2007. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2007/12/05/a_city_of_unmatched_diversity.html

[x]According to No One is Illegal’s website: http://toronto.nooneisillegal.org/node/274.

[xi]A “Security Certificate” is a mechanism by which the Government of Canada can detain and deport foreign nationals and all other non-citizens living in Canada.

[xii]As NOII states, “The Solidarity City is about bypassing the ideas behind nation-states and centralized governments.” Thomas Nail, et al. “Building Sanctuary City: No One is Illegal–Toronto on Non-Status Migrant Justice Organizing,”Upping the Anti: A Journal of Theory and Actionno. 11 (2010): 149–162, 159.

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