Thursday, April 19, 2012

Call for a global Immigration Reform

I'm a technology nomad. We changed camels for high powered, fossil fuel burning
jets. I'm working from any place that has internet connection which is
typically within hundreds of meters from any physical location I happen to
be at. I create open source software that brings value to various people,
using mostly loose change and scraps from large corporations for a living.
It's not that much value, after all, who uses PyPy, but the important part
is the sign - it's a small, albeit positive change in the open source ecosystem
that in turn makes it cheaper to create software stacks which ends up in
young companies trying to make a dent in the universe. I'm a plumber fixing
your pipes, one of the many.

And I need a visa for that. I want to have a stamp in my passport that will
state all of the above and provide few clues as to what it actually means:

  • I will not stay in your country for very long.

  • The exact place does not matter at all to me - it's all one big internet.

  • I'll not seek employment at McDonalds and I have a pretty good track record,
    go read my bitbucket contributions.

  • Open Source is software you run into everyday - and this is also because
    of people like me.

And yet I'm failing. People running immigration are so detached from my reality
we don't even send postcards to each other. Every single border officer is
suspicious and completely confused as to why and how I do all of that.

How can we change it? How can we end the madness of pointless paperwork?




  1. I travel a lot as well and yes it is frustrating the attitude of immigration officials. Surely they know that I'm just visiting for a week then I'm out of there, after all they can see my return flight details and a passport full of country stamps!

    But, the problem is, that we have a rich country mentality. It is no accident that the wealthy industrialised countries also have relatively benign climates and a reasonable though likely nearly depleted amount of natural resources. As global economics continue to put pressure on how quickly we can deplete our remaining easily accessible resources, and we accelerate climate change in the process, countries with a benign climate will be increasingly attractive not for economic migration but for survival. Over two billion people will find themselves in areas that simply cannot maintain any kind of reasonable or even basic livelihood in the coming decades. What happens to these people? Where do they go?

    So, we face a moral dilemma. Do we frame immigration policy around (a) no border controls and free movement of people globally? (b) immigration based on skills and contribution to economy? or (c) immigration based on the need to locate the world's population in areas that are actually liveable.

    Given we are all located somewhere purely by accident of birth, you would think it would be a fairly inhumane and despicable injustice to suggest that one person has more right to live somewhere than another, yet that is exactly what our national borders create. Overpopulation of both rich and poor countries forces us to restrict movement. The consequence is exploitation of poor countries by rich ones, corruption in poor countries exacerbating poverty and desperation, and rich countries taking extraordinarily protective measures (bilateral trade agreements that are meant to help developing economies yet actually benefit wealthy countries more, participation in conflicts in overseas territories that have nothing to do with "national security" but everything to do with protecting resource flows to wealthy countries, etc).

    So... that might not be the kind of response to your blog that you were expecting, but it is perhaps more of a "world view" than an individual perspective. I have absolutely zero expectation that immigration policy will change significantly -- if anything the border gates will be built higher. The "pointless paperwork" that you suggest is not at all pointless from the perspective of an authority that wants to maintain strict entry requirements in the face of increasingly sophisticated identity fraud, human trafficking and domestic unrest at "people who come here and take our jobs".

  2. And while that comment might refer to "immigration policy" rather than "border control", to the authorities they amount to much the same thing.

  3. @PHeston I think (but I don't have hard data and as far as I know noone does) you underestimate the infrastructure part of the equation. People want to live close to infrastructure and close to where work is and that does not necesarily correspond to livable locations.

    The problem with b) is what we have now (more or less), but how do you judge? Government can only interact with people via bureaucracy and by far having bureaucracy decide who is contributing to the economy and who is not is not a very good idea. Pretty much by definition you're left with people who would contribute to the economy 20 years ago.

  4. "time to set up a new nation"?

    That will only get you a different set of border officers, and Fijal and others would still have to deal with the rest.

    IMHO the solution is to work towards a society devoid of these imaginary borders between the physical locations, devoid of these Westphalian "nation-states".

  5. Excuse, excuse me, just a second.

    Let me ask the OP a question. Do you authenticate into your desktop? Same for all the servers you run? How about that group of cloud servers on AWS?

    I'll make a deal with you. When you turn off authentication on all the resources you utilize and you leave it that way forever... THEN I will listen to the idea of physical open borders.

    But somehow I don't think you will accept that level of parity....

  6. There are no sounds for immigration and reform coming from the Federal government. The White House is quiet on the matter. The U.S. Congress does not want to deal with it. It appears that when re-elections are concerned, the talk of Immigration Reform disappears into the darkness.