Latina Lista: News from the Latinx perspective > Government > Should US Follow EU’s Lead in Abolishing Borders?

Should US Follow EU’s Lead in Abolishing Borders?

LatinaLista —Today, something to be admired and emulated happened in the European Union — nine more European countries, mainly ex-Communist countries, became part of what is known as the Schengen Zone.

The European Union’s Schengen Zone allows its residents to travel visa-free.
(Source: dw-world)

The 1985 Schengen Agreement is an agreement among most Western and Central European countries which allows for the abolition of systematic border controls between the participating countries.

For countries that have adopted this agreement, it means border checkpoints are a relic of the past and a reminder of when governments wanted total control of not just who came into their countries, but who went out.

Yet, in this day and age, where no borders exist in cyberspace and globalization is a reality in how people conduct business, as well as, their lives, doing away with borders is an idea whose time has come.
Even some European leaders, like Poland’s Prime Minister, who were known for their anti-European feelings, saw the dismantling of the border checkpoints as something to be celebrated.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico and Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer sawed through a barrier at the Berg border crossing.
(Source: BBC)

“We have now succeeded in overcoming the most difficult border — that of fear and anxiety,” said Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk in his speech in Zittau.

And that is the kernal of truth of why countries have borders — and why any such agreement is years from happening on this side of the Atlantic.
Those with extreme views on migration want to keep the fear and anxiety alive in this country. By fueling both, extremists can ensure that the country will continually border on isolationism from their southern neighbors rather than inclusion.
The thought has been that by keeping our distance from those nearest us, we are stronger.
It was the wrong move.
By keeping our distance and only interacting with our southern neighbors when it was in our best interests, our influence has eroded, but most importantly, the respect and awe that those countries used to have for the United States has dwindled to the point that it has become a badge of honor, in too many countries, to challenge US.
The trend is worsening.
There is far too much distrust and discrimination among our own citizens to even entertain the idea of an open borders agreement with Central and South American neighbors.
But it wouldn’t be surprising to one day see such an agreement reached among all of our southern neighbors, excluding the United States.
If that should ever come to pass then the extremists who control the immigration conversation will have gotten their wish — to have the United States left alone.
But like that popular song of long ago — “one is a lonely number.”

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  • Horace
    December 21, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    The primary impediment to such a proposal are the Central and Latin American countries themselves. It’s ridiculous to even consider dissolving the border between Mexico and the U.S., as the former has a political system that is an utter failure in providing social and economic justice for its people. Each of the countries of the European Union had to meet certain economic, social and legal system milestones before they were even considered for entry. While the U.S. could easily meet these requirements, others in this hemisphere cannot. Aside from Mexico, Venezuela, and other countries would have difficulties with their Marxist tendencies, lack of civil rights, vast differences between the rich and the poor, some with no middle classes at all. You’re a riot, Marisa, in thinking that the Central and South American countries could ever get their acts together and agree on anything, nevermind ceding their sovereignties to the collective will of a central power. What a hoot! On the other hand, Canada and the U.S. are practically economic and social twins. A union between these two counties is only prevented by national prides. Under the current circumstances, a union with S & C America would require a vast transfer of wealth between this country and countries other than Candada. In a nutshell, its a dumb idea.

  • Liquidmicro
    December 21, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    The EU is becoming more like the USA, in which each country, each still sovereign, is acting like an individual state, with a trade agreement like NAFTA.
    However, to move from one country to another you still must apply for residency and have a guaranteed job. You can never become a citizen of the country you move to, only a resident, and you must still have a sponsor in order to become a resident. If you have a child in a different country, that child is then of the country of the parent or parents, not of the country in which it was born.

  • HispanicPundit
    December 21, 2007 at 9:35 pm

    As a person on the economic right I whole heartedly embrace such a view, the complete openness of borders is something to work towards…though, consistent that I am, I support such a view in regards to labor and also goods and services.

  • Frank
    December 21, 2007 at 10:09 pm

    Odd that Marisa doesn’t include Canada in her open borders fantasy.

  • Marisa Treviño
    December 22, 2007 at 8:56 am

    Not odd, Frank. The United States already feels like it has more in common with Canadians and so an open border, figuratively speaking, already exists in the minds of most people I know.
    It’s points south that the US feels a disconnect from because of differences in language and physical appearance. Because I’ve grown up never giving a second thought to someone who is from Mexico, Guatemala, Panama, etc or the countries themselves, the idea that most people in the US, who have not had the same opportunities as I and others have had, would feel differently was brought home to me by, of all people, Samantha Brown of the Travel Channel.
    After spending countless shows traveling through Europe, she and her producers went to Latin America. They traveled to various countries, and she even proclaimed that (I think) Nicaragua was her favorite destination from all of the countries she had visited in the world.
    But what she said about being in Latin America and how US citizens know more about Europe than they do their closest neighbors made me realize even more that we have a long way to go to “normalize” our view of Latin America.
    That’s a big shame.

  • Frank
    December 22, 2007 at 4:23 pm

    Marisa, although it may be true that culturally we are more like Canada than any countries south of our border, there is still just as much of a defined border to our north as there is to our south with immigration policies that do not favor Canadians over Latin American immigrants.

  • Publius
    December 22, 2007 at 10:23 pm

    Horace is correct, the economic disparities between North and South America are insurmountable obstacles to a union between the two continents. This from Wikipedia:
    “Due to histories of high inflation in nearly all South American countries, interest-rates and thus investment remain high and low, respectively. Interest rates are usually twice that of the United States. For example, interest-rates are about 22% in Venezuela and 23% in Suriname. The exception is Chile, which has been successfully implementing free market economic policies since the 1980s and increased its social spending since the return of democratic rule in the early 1990s. This has led to economic stability and interest rates in the low single digits.
    The economic gap between the rich and poor in most South American nations is considered to be larger than in most other continents. In Venezuela, Paraguay, Bolivia and many other South American countries, the richest 20% may own over 60% of the nation’s wealth, while the poorest 20% may own less than 5%. This wide gap can be seen in many large South American cities where makeshift shacks and slums lie adjacent to skyscrapers and upper-class luxury apartments.”
    And one need only type the words corruption and South America into Google and up pops numerous references to the extensive corruption in South America.
    I’m afraid that South America has a long way to go before the U.S. would even consider the relationship that you propose.

  • laura
    December 23, 2007 at 8:32 pm

    The most critical difference between the European Union and the US and its southern neighbors is this.
    Whenever the people of one of the Central and South American countries tried to improve their lot by electing a government that proposed policies in their favor, the US organized a bloody coup that installed military dictators. Those then went on to rule for the next 20-40 years and killed anyone who asked for things such as a living wage, or holding onto their land instead of having it taken away and given to a US company such as United Fruit (or Chiquita). Examples abound between Guatemala in 1954, Chile in 1973, Nicaragua in the 80s and the coup attempt in Venezuela in 2002.
    In contrast, the rich countries of the European Union – France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium – have given billions in subsidies to the poor countries. This made economic miracles such as that of Ireland in the last 10 years possible.
    Since US governments from the 50s through the present have shed streams of blood via their local Latin American surrogates to keep the people poor – and US corporations rich – economic and social conditions in this hemisphere are indeed vastly disparate. Whereas in Europe they are continuing to gradually converge.
    Now that Latin American people have accumulated experience of the collusion between their elites and those of the US, one thing we may be more likely to see is their increasing cooperation and convergence among each other. Not including the US.
    If they are able to refuse the money from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which has always come with conditions requiring squeezing the poor even more into desperation, they may have a good chance.
    At that point, their people will no longer need to follow the money and resources squeezed from their countries back to the US – they will be able to stay home with their families.

  • Horace
    December 25, 2007 at 6:10 pm

    Yeah, they’re so open-minded…………
    E.U.’s expanding borderless zone spells trouble for U.S. expats
    Prague, Czech Republic – Seven years ago, Robert Hanawalt ditched a sales career in Washington to move to Prague, where he quickly realized that he could live indefinitely without official paperwork.
    He taught English illegally for four years on 90-day tourist visas. The trick? Quick trips over the border, which reset the clock with a fresh passport stamp.
    ‘I did that,’ Mr. Hanawalt says. ‘But after the first few times I thought, ‘Why even bother? Nobody is checking these things.’ ‘
    But as nine countries, including the Czech Republic, join the European Union’s borderless Schengen zone Friday, Brussels is now ordering member states to get tough on visa policy.
    That could spell trouble for an unlikely class of illegal immigrants: American expats. Attracted by English teaching jobs, the low cost of living, and societies just waking up to the possibilities of Western tourism, thousands are estimated to be living and working illegally in central and eastern Europe.
    Prague quickly became an expatriate magnet. Today, 5,000 Americans are registered with the US Embassy here, though there’s no official tally of the total number of Americans living in the Czech Republic. Local media estimate it to be nearly 20,000.
    Brussels is taking aim at such visa riders. Now, Americans and Canadians can initially travel visa-free to Schengen countries for up to 90 days. But if at the end of that time they want to stay, they must go somewhere outside the zone – Ukraine or Montenegro, for example – to apply for a long-term visa.
    Many expats are wondering what to do now, having set down roots here.
    ‘There is definitely some panic about Schengen,’ says Evan Rail, a travel writer who has lived in Prague for eight years, but has been ‘riding a tourist visa’ for the last two.
    Hanawalt has gotten a valid residency permit and runs a business helping other Americans in Prague negotiate the country’s immigration bureaucracy and get legal themselves. Mark Wright, who has been teaching English illegally in Prague for two years, found another teaching job at a language school that says it will help him obtain a visa.
    Other Americans are applying for Czech business licenses, another avenue to obtaining a residency visa. But some are taking their chances.
    ‘Unfortunately one can’t go up to a government official and ask exactly how much harder it will be to live here illegally in the new year,’ says Mr. Wright. ‘It’s possible enforcement might not change at all, and I know some expats who are banking on it.’
    The Czech interior ministry is promising increased enforcement. Spokesman Vladimir Repka wrote in an e-mail this week that in 2007 more than 4,000 people were deported for visa violations, though he did not know how many were Americans.
    Schengen’s expansion is affecting others as well. Ukrainians, long accustomed to unfettered travel to Poland, now need a visa even for day trips. Slovenia is closing down unmanned footbridges along its border with Croatia.
    Not every American in Prague is greeting Schengen coldly. ‘As someone living here legally, I think it’s only fair that some of the permanent tourists here be made to do the same thing,’ says Mark Anderson, who moved here six years ago and started his own cleaning business.

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