In a recent interview, Will Meyer from Teen Vogue promoted a book titled Build Bridges, Not Walls: A Journey to a World Without Borders, by journalist Todd Miller. Both the book and the interview are a call for abolishing national borders, and the latter contains many of the main points made in his monograph. Although many of Miller’s ideas may seem fringe, one should not dismiss them because the radicalism they represent has become increasingly mainstream on the left side of the political spectrum.
In the interview’s introduction, Meyer approvingly invoked “abolitionist” Angela Davis’ assertion that “walls turned sideways are bridges.” Nowhere is it mentioned that Angela Davis is a lifelong communist and that the so-called “abolitionist” received the Lenin “Peace” Prize in 1979 from the totalitarian Soviet regime, which ran a police and prison state. This disturbing omission is telling and explains the essence of the rest of the piece, as do Miller’s fond reminiscences about his “solidarity work” during which he visited territories engulfed by the communist Zapatista insurgency in southern Mexico during the late 1990s.
Miller condemns borders as a “constant human rights violation,” claiming that “the border plays a role in maintaining systems of injustice. And, for this reason … it needs to be eliminated.” Thus, even his praise for Biden executive orders reversing Trump policies is tempered by the view that the new administration has not gone far enough in dismantling the border.
Miller and Meyer both complain about wealthy countries responding to “climate change” by building border walls. This allows rich Western capitalist countries – and the “neoliberal project” in particular – to poison “the atmosphere with greenhouse gas emissions” while the poor in the Global South pay the price. In reality, according to a study by the Center for Immigration Studies, “immigrants increase their emissions four-fold by coming to America.”
The discussion then pivots to general arguments about immigration, with Miller claiming that “[s]tudies show that undocumented communities are safer … and help debunk the myth that immigrants bring criminality into the United States.” In reality, FAIR has shown the opposite is true. Miller also brushes aside economic arguments against mass migration, declaring them “comical” and stating that mass migration boosts the Gross Domestic Product (GDP),” while forgetting that GDP increases by themselves are not a sufficient gauge for determining standards of living. He also ignores the fact that some may be making money off of mass migration while others – U.S. taxpayers in particular – are stuck with a growing bill. Finally, Miller asserts that “the counterarguments are pretty thin unless your argument is racist.” While mass-migration advocates like Miller are often obsessed with race, the truth is that illegal immigrants come from hundreds of different countries and make up numerous different races and ethnicities. Those who wish to see our immigration laws enforced do not suggest that they only be enforced against people of a certain race or ethnicity.
He then displays his historical ignorance by claiming that borders are a relatively recent concept and the result of the Berlin Conference (1884-1885), when some European powers carved up Africa, drawing borders that frequently “cut through Indigenous territory, where people shared traditions, languages ….” In reality, borders go back many centuries. For instance, the Roman Empire’s borders were in some places fortified to keep out raiding and plundering tribes. And, in the Middle East, as one historian points out, during the “early Christian era,” the “Persians … even quarreled with their eastern neighbors on matters of boundary pillars and border rivers.” In fact, one of the oldest documented examples of an established border dates to the seventh century BC, when the Great Wall of China was created to protect the northern border of ancient Chinese states from various foreign nomadic groups. Furthermore, the Hebrew book of Exodus, which was authored around 600 BC or earlier, also contains many descriptions of national borders. Borders have existed for essentially all of recorded civilization.
The interviewee’s claim that borders are “a direct result of colonialism and maintain a neo-colonial worldview” ignores the historic struggles of many nations against foreign invaders to achieve or reclaim independent statehood and establish sovereign borders. One need only consult the modern history of Poland. In essence, Miller’s view on borders reflects sheltered Western privilege.
The assertion that “[b]orders are unnatural” and “divisive” also crumbles when subjected to even a minimal level of analysis. As Canadian clinical psychologist Professor Jordan Peterson explained, borders and boundaries are both natural and reasonable – at the individual, societal, and national levels – for their absence would breed unbearable chaos and anarchy. And, in his book, The Virtue of Nationalism, Israeli philosopher Yoram Hazony made the point that a world without borders is much more likely to be a tyrannical and oppressive global empire than a utopia of universal brotherhood.
Miller concludes by linking down-with-borders extremism with another radical pet project, the abolition of prisons, claiming that in a “world of justice” both prisons and borders would “fall.” Of course, places that set out to establish such egalitarian Marxist utopias ironically ended up using borders – the very thing Miller despises – to turn their entire countries into huge prisons and keep their own people from escaping the oppression and starvation that occurred instead.