In thinking about immigration and migration, I could not care less whether someone filled out the paperwork correctly or passed a civics exam. I oppose the immigration of an African who waits his turn and genuinely “wants to be an American”; conversely, I would gladly accept thousands of “Swedish boat people” who wash up on the shores.

The question is really who someone is. It is not how someone is (whether he followed some arbitrary legal procedure).

But we still live in a liberal age based on liberal assumptions. And liberalism, among other things, values procedure as a chief source of legitimacy. A political decision is legitimate, for instance, if it is voted on correctly; an individual is a member of a nation if he happened to be born in its geographic territory or takes a test and is sanctioned by a lawyer or bureaucrat.

I have, no doubt, that the American governors who oppose the resettlement of Syrian migrants in their states (all but one of whom are Republican) have some traditionalist instincts buried beneath their PC talking points. After all, Salus populi suprema lex esto, and these governors are acting like true guardians of the people. But they also evince that Republican tendency of ultimately missing the point, and doing the right thing for the wrong reason.

The Muslims who attacked Paris last week were not (so far as we know) Syrian refugees; they were, in fact, French “citizens”. In other words, the issue is one of race (and all that this word implies) and civilization, and not legality or geographic location. In turn, in the age of mass migration, the threats to a nation are just as likely to be “citizens” as foreigners or invaders.

What we are witnessing is the passing of the concept of “the citizen”—“le citoyen” that was deified during the French Revolution. The politics of the future will be based on race and identity, and not the abstract, bankrupt notions of “citizenship” currently peddled by Western nation-states.