November 1, 2012
Immigration Article of the Day: Immigration as a Human Right by Kieran Oberman
Abstract: This article argues that people have a human right to immigrate to other states. People have essential interests in being able to make important personal decisions and engage in politics without state restrictions on the range of options accessible to them. It is these interests which other human rights, such as the human rights to domestic freedom of movement, freedom of association and freedom of occupational choice, protect. Commitment to these already recognized human rights thus requires commitment to the further human right to immigrate, for without this further right the underlying interests are not sufficiently protected. Does this mean immigration restrictions are always unjust? On the view of human rights adopted here, human rights are not absolute. Restrictions might be justified in extreme circumstances in which immigration threatens severe social costs that cannot otherwise be prevented. Outside these circumstances, however, immigration restrictions are unjust. The idea of a human right to immigrate is not then a demand for open borders. Rather it is a demand that basic liberties (to move, associate, speak, worship, work and marry) be awarded the same level of protection when people seek to exercise them across borders as when people seek to exercise them within borders. Immigration restrictions deserve no special exemption from the purview of human freedom rights.
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