What Constitutes a Rational Immigration Policy?

Somewhere between suicidal empathy and xenophobic rigidity.

By Gad Saad Ph.D. | 31 January 2017
Psychology Today

Few people are as well-situated to speak about the laudable benefits of a humane immigration policy than me. Canada granted my family and I refuge in this beautiful country as we escaped the horrors of genocidal religious hate. Having spent 40+ years living in a secular and liberal society (that is becoming less so on a quasi-daily basis), I wish to ensure that future generations of immigrants experience the same freedoms as I did. This is why I often lend my voice to this important debate regarding the optimal immigration policy.

As I’ve explained elsewhere (e.g., during my chat with Sam Harris on his podcast), it is incorrect to view the immigration issue through a short-term lens. It is also incorrect to view the immigration issue through the myopic objective of seeking to stop terror. Of course, we wish to stop terrorists and prospective terrorists from coming to our secular and liberal societies. But this is a small part of a larger challenge. When people discuss the dangers of ISIS infiltrating the refugee program, this is a short-term lens and one that focuses on stopping terror as the key challenge. The response is to then propose more extreme vetting. But this does not solve a more fundamental problem, namely the fact that many people who might not be terrorists do not share any of our secular and liberal values. Their views on Jews, gays, women, religious minorities, and all of our foundational freedoms could not be any more antithetical to ours. No amount of extreme vetting could resolve this reality. There are countless countries, unified by one common ideology, wherein 90%+ of the populations in question hold genocidal and abhorrent hatred of Jews. These folks are not ISIS terrorists. They are not Al-Nusra members. They do not belong to the Muslim Brotherhood. They have not trained in Al-Qaeda camps. They are part of the so-called “peaceful” majority. Will the infusion of hundreds of thousands of such folks increase or decrease the safety of Jews? Of gays? Of atheists? Again, think in the long run. Will the welcoming of thousands of folks who do not share our cultural ethos strengthen our secular and liberal societies?  As the demographic realities tip toward an increase of folks who might not share our liberal and secular values, will this serve to enrich our societies or sow the seeds for endless future strife? The historical as well as contemporary data could not be any clearer.

There is nothing morally objectionable in stating that a country has the inalienable right to decide on the exact number of immigrants and the exact type of immigrants that it wishes to let into its borders. As part of that calculus, it is perfectly rational to exhibit preferential treatment to immigrants who share one’s cultural values. Those who do so are welcome to prospectively join our liberal and secular societies. Those who don’t must either give up their antiquated and illiberal ideologies or accept the fact that they do not have an entitled right to join our societies. No ideology should ever get a pass simply because it is cloaked in a religious robe.

At the basis of a country’s immigration policy is the recognition that a country has the right to pursue its interests first and whenever it wishes to be altruistic and humane, this is instantiated without ever risking the danger of its citizens and/or its cultural values. A country does not need to cede an inch of its sense of security. It does not need to place any of its citizens at risk. As such, it is unclear how to strike the right balance between suicidal empathy (and associated faux-liberal platitudes) and ill-informed xenophobic rigidity. But somewhere between these two end points of the continuum lies the optimal policy. Those who wish to find that balance are valuable members of this great debate. Those who exist on the two endpoints are enemies of liberty in their idiosyncratically dogmatic ways.

Reprinted with permission from the author.

Gad Saad is a Lebanese-Canadian evolutionary behavioural scientist at the John Molson School of Business (Concordia University, Canada) who is known for applying evolutionary psychology to marketing and consumer behaviour. He holds the Concordia University Research Chair in Evolutionary Behavioural Sciences and Darwinian Consumption and has a blog at Psychology Today titled Homo Consumericus. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, like his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter (@GadSaad).

What Constitutes a Rational Immigration Policy? (THE SAAD TRUTH_352)

My Chat with Sam Harris (THE SAAD TRUTH_262)

Gad Saad and Dave Rubin: Academics, Free Speech, Atheism and Religion

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