The Morality of Immigration

Undergraduate Program Status

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Course Description: 

This is course examines questions related to international migration from the perspective of political philosophy. It will engage with some of the general theoretical issues around migration, including the purported right of states to control the movement of people across their borders and the purported rights of individuals to move into the country of their choice. Nation states claim and exercise the right to control who can enter to and settle within their territory. However, there is no consensus in political theory about the moral basis of this right, or even whether states in fact have such a right. The course will discuss some of the most important accounts of the territorial rights of states in the current literature. It will also engage with freedom-based and equality-based arguments supporting the general right of individuals to settle within the country of their choice. Next, it will explore two arguments in favor of restrictive immigration policies that rest on liberal democratic premises. The first holds that liberal democrats have good reasons to restrict immigration because it tends to hurt the prospects of the domestic poor. This is the so-called “progressive’s dilemma”. The second hold that immigration may undermine the social bases of well-functioning liberal democracies, and for this reason strict immigration limits are permissible. After engaging with general theoretical issues, the course turns to some more particular questions about the morality of immigration. These include the special case of refugees, the problem of the so-called right to stay, and the effects of particular categories of immigration on sending countries (“brain drain” and “care drain”).  

The course will be taught in double blocks of two 60-minute sessions, with the first session more focused on lecture and the second on seminar-style discussion. Students are required to submit the day before class questions about the readings. Seminar discussion will focus mostly but not exclusively on submitted questions.