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Joseph Carens is arguably the most important figure working today on the normative dimensions of migration, and he deserves credit for having worked out before anyone else that migration has these normative dimensions.
The current ethical debate about the legitimacy of migration controls would not exist but for his writing. We have been waiting for the book-length version of his arguments, though, for quite a long time.
At last that book has been released, and it has justified its long gestation. The Ethics of Immigration collects the more specific arguments Carens has made about migration over the past twenty-five years, and places them within an attractive and consistent normative framework. That view is set out in The Ethics of Immigration with more clarity and elegance than ever before.
The book has two parts, with a brief methodological appendix. The first half deals with the concept of social membership, which Carens understands as something that places normative limits on the rights of democratic communities to expel people who have made lives within their borders. Throughout these chapters, Carens defends the view that those who are members in fact—that is, those who have built lives and relationships within a particular place—have a right to be recognized as members by the institutions governing that place, and to treatment as moral equals by others who have made lives for themselves within that society.
The argument is far-reaching, with implications that stretch beyond discussions of immigration proper. For example, Carens deals with the moral nature of social inclusion in the multicultural state pp. It also presents in a slightly expanded form his famous argument that migration controls are, themselves, illiberal, or at least that whatever considerations could defeat the right to migrate would have to be considerably unlike the justifications offered by contemporary states.
Carens ends with a reply to critics, many of whom have been eager to rebut his argument that borders must be, on pain of illiberalism, open. The Ethics of Immigration , however, has changed my mind. Carens argues for a similar conclusion in his appendix, but I think what I present here is slightly unlike his own presentation. Not all coercion, though, is of the same form, and some coercive acts do more to rob the world of value than others.
To refuse the migration of an alien into our political and social community is presumptively wrongful because of what it prevents from coming into the world: the relationships and projects that would have existed had the migration occurred.
To expel the undocumented, though, or to refuse admission to those suffering abuse elsewhere in the world, is to do something much worse; it is to directly destroy value in the world, or to allow political evil elsewhere in the world to destroy that value where we could save it. This way of reading Carens means, though, that the topics in the first part of the book are not merely instances of nonideal theorizing, or ad hoc arguments given in the service of political advocacy; they are, instead, some of the most important contributions made by the book.
This general view of value, though, is subject to some important criticism. Wellman and Carens are often presented as polar opposites—certainly, I present them as such when teaching them to undergraduates—but they have a deeper agreement: both begin with the notion that people have an interest in building a life for themselves in a particular place, that they derive value from the success of their project of self-creation, and that whatever interferes with the success of this project is prima facie immoral.
The arguments begin with similar premises and end up in strikingly different places. I think a similar difficulty can be ascribed to both views: they both focus on interests, rather than focusing more directly on the notion of right. It seems true that the prospective migrant has an interest in moving to a particular place; it also seems true, though, that the people already in that place have a legitimate interest in seeing what they have built not transformed or undermined through the choices of others.
Carens focuses on the former interest, placing no weight at all upon the latter; Wellman, of course, does the reverse. But why should we think that either one is an adequate account of migration? Carens has two arguments for this conclusion: first, democracies do not coerce on the basis of thoughts; and, second, it is unfair for a state to refuse membership to an undemocratic longtime resident when they would not take it from a birthright citizen.
I am not convinced by either of these lines of reasoning. The first seems simply wrong: democracies coercively insist upon civic education for their young, and no democracy is neutral between students who emerge from that process as democratic agents and those who emerge as committed theocrats.
We do not punish on the basis of thought, but that does not mean that we cannot work coercively to privilege democratic agents and seek to add to their number.
The second point, though, is more central. International law seems to reflect some idea that communal integrity is intrinsically valuable. We have reason to think that Carens has identified a powerful interest; I think we have comparatively little reason to believe that that interest is legitimately translated, without some due consideration for the other side, into a notion of political right. This means that the best view of migration is likely one that has yet to be written; we need a view that is sensitive to the interests of all affected parties, rather than one that takes a particular form of interest as politically dispositive.
I do not know what that view would be. All of us who think and write about the ethics of migration owe Carens a debt of gratitude. The publication of this book is a milestone in the history of our shared debates.
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The Ethics of Immigration
We'd like to understand how you use our websites in order to improve them. Register your interest. This is an important book. In its pages, Carens defines the political theory of migration: a field that, to a large extent, he also founded.
The ethics of immigration
Joseph Carens is arguably the most important figure working today on the normative dimensions of migration, and he deserves credit for having worked out before anyone else that migration has these normative dimensions. The current ethical debate about the legitimacy of migration controls would not exist but for his writing. We have been waiting for the book-length version of his arguments, though, for quite a long time. At last that book has been released, and it has justified its long gestation. The Ethics of Immigration collects the more specific arguments Carens has made about migration over the past twenty-five years, and places them within an attractive and consistent normative framework.
The first eight chapters of the book argue for a robust system of migrant rights and equal treatment of migrants and natives, while conceding the legitimacy of nation-states and their discretionary control over migration. The ninth and tenth chapter discuss illegal immigrants, family reunification, and refugees. The eleventh chapter argues for open borders , and challenges the presumption of discretionary control over migration, while still staying within the framework of legitimacy of nation-states. Carens responded to the critiques in two blog posts. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it.