Immigration justice: A proposal for developing just admissions policies

2008 2008

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Abstract (summary)

The central thesis of this dissertation is that just immigration policies may not avoidably social groups that are already unjustly disadvantaged. This principle challenges three common views in philosophical and popular discourse on immigration justice. First, it rejects the view on which the sovereignty of states includes the discretion to choose admissions criteria in a way that is morally unencumbered. Second, this principle denies that states may justly choose immigration policies according to nationalist principles of political morality. Finally, though I argue that states' immigration policies are subject to cosmopolitan constraints of justice, I dispute the most widespread view among cosmopolitans on immigration: that liberal states ought to open their borders.

In the first half of Chapter 1, I survey salient empirical data on the patterns and causes of contemporary global migration, and I briefly review extant international law on immigration. While the UDHR guarantees the rights of domestic movement, non-expatriation, exit, asylum, and return, international law is silent on states' obligations to non-refugee immigrants. In the second half, I consider two challenges to the relevance of my topic to political philosophy.

Chapters 2 and 3 critically examine extant philosophical proposals for regulating immigration. Chapter 2 assesses a variety of nationalist moral arguments for regulating immigration. I reject each of these proposals on both general, anti-nationalist grounds and for proposal-specific reasons. Chapter 3 considers several cosmopolitan proposals for regulating immigration. Though I share the cosmopolitan commitment to the moral equality of citizens and foreigners, I find fault with all extant cosmopolitan proposals.

Chapter 4 explicates the aforementioned principle in terms of four questions: What is a social group? When is a social group disadvantaged? Under what conditions is disadvantage unjust? When does an immigration policy avoidably harm a social group? Chapter 5 defends this principle. First, I argue that states' sovereign authority over immigration is constrained by principles of justice. Second, I argue that nationalist principles of political morality are inappropriate for evaluating states' immigration policies. I argue, third, that states must give absolute priority to the welfare of unjustly disadvantaged social groups in the selection of immigration policies.

Indexing (details)

0422: Philosophy
Identifier / keyword
Philosophy, religion and theology; Admissions policies; Cosmopolitanism; Immigration; Justice; Nationalism; Sovereignty
Immigration justice: A proposal for developing just admissions policies
Higgins, Peter W.
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 69/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Jaggar, Alison
Committee member
Boonin, David; Hale, Ben; Mills, Claudia; Norcross, Alastair
University of Colorado at Boulder
University location
United States -- Colorado
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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