Open borders and the right to immigration

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History and Philosophy


I do not argue for or against substantive immigration policies in this paper. Rather, my thesis concerns what kinds of reasons are morally salient in the construction of just immigration policies. I argue that philosophical proposals for regulating immigration should be evaluated according to the following methodological principle: The unit of analysis in terms of which principles for regulating immigration must be evaluated is the socially situated individual. I defend this principle indirectly by applying it to cosmopolitan principles for regulating immigration in order to demonstrate the moral inadequacy of theories of immigration that adopt an inappropriate unit of analysis. Failure to evaluate the moral adequacy of their own substantive proposals in terms of their effects on socially situated individuals leads some cosmopolitans to endorse substantive recommendations for regulating immigration (namely, open borders) that, I argue, disproportionately burden members of institutionally disadvantaged groups.

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