On the morality of immigration

Ethics and International Affairs 22 (1):25–33 (2008)
Abstract
My goal here is twofold: First, I wish to make a plea for the relevance of moral considerations in debates about immigration. Too often, immigration debates are conducted solely from the standpoint of ‘‘what is good for us,’’ without regard for the justifiability of immigration policies to those excluded. Second, I wish to offer a standpoint that demonstrates why one should think of immigration as a moral problem that must be considered in the context of global justice. More specifically, I will argue that the earth belongs to humanity in common and that this matters for assessing immigration policy. The case I will be particularly interested in is immigration into the United States, where immigration policy continues to be a hotly debated topic. However, that discussion takes the form of a case study: the relevant considerations apply generally. To give some initial grounding to the standpoint that the earth belongs to humanity in common, let us suppose for the sake of argument that the population of the United States shrinks to two, but that these two can control access into the country through sophisticated electronic border-surveillance mechanisms. Suppose, too, that nothing changes in the rest of the world. I would argue (and I think most would agree) that under such conditions these two citizens should allow for immigration based on the fact that they are grossly underusing the territory under their control. If this is so, then it follows that what we do with the space we control must matter for assessing immigration policy. It further follows in particular that, given that by global standards the population of the United States is too small relative to the amount of space to which it claims exclusive control, illegal immigrants should be naturalized and more widespread immigration should be permitted. Questions about immigration fundamentally challenge those who see themselves in the liberal camp. One hallmark of the liberal state is that it takes individual attitudes in many areas of life as given and rules them out only if they threaten the functionality of the state..
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Lea Ypi (2013). Territorial Rights and Exclusion. Philosophy Compass 8 (3):241-253.
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