July 15, 2019
Casablanca is more than seventy-five years old. If released today, it would surely be criticized for its moralizing American nationalism, as well as for celebrating French colonial rule without featuring a single Moroccan protagonist. Read as a migration narrative, however, Casablanca reminds us that the identification papers we carry were created not to give us freedom but rather to curtail it. The right to mobility is granted not by the individual but by the state, and access to that right is dictated largely along class lines. The poor, unwanted abroad and unable to pay for the required visas, transit costs, and even basic documentation, stay trapped, while the rich can come and go as they please. In 2016, a record 82,000 millionaires moved to a new country thanks to immigration policies designed to attract the ultrarich, essentially by selling citizenship and residence permits. That year also, populist politicians around the world, from Austria to the Philippines, won over large numbers of voters by promising to keep the riff-raff out.