On Immigration Enforcement and Expulsion Strategies: A Moral and Political Defense of Immigrant Rights
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Recently, Christopher Heath Wellman has proposed an innovative argument that appears to resolve, at least with respect to immigration, the tension between democratic autonomy (i.e. a people's right to self-determination) and human rights (i.e. respect for individual freedom and universal equality). Wellman argues, from a traditionally liberal point of view, that a legitimate state (i.e. a state that respects human rights) is entitled to self-determination and that part of the definition of being self-determined is having the presumptive right to unilaterally control immigration. In other words, Wellman claims that a state's unilateral right to control immigration can be made compatible with liberal commitments to individual freedom and universal equality. I aim to raise a novel objection against Wellman's argument, which I hope will also challenge philosophers to think differently about the immigration issue as a whole. My position is that even if Wellman's conclusion is correct, that a state's right to self-determination can be made compatible with human rights, the presumptive right that this generates for a legitimate state to unilaterally control immigration is, at best, limited only to admission and exclusion policies (i.e. to questions about who can be let in and who can be kept out). Wellman's conclusion, however, does not hold for strategies of immigration enforcement and expulsion (i.e. to the questions about how these policies may be enforced or what sort of deportation procedures a state is justified in using). And, in fact, I argue that under Wellman's account, a legitimate state would be restricted in deploying certain strategies of immigration enforcement and expulsion. My conclusion is that with respect to immigration enforcement and expulsion strategies, the presumptive right is on the side of the immigrant and not the state. This means that if a legitimate state wishes to control immigration, it is the state who holds the burden of proof to show that not only its immigration policies but also its enforcement and expulsion strategies do not violate prior commitments to individual liberty and universal equality. This, I contend, provides a moral and political baseline justification for immigrant rights, which I refer to as a minimalist defense of immigrant rights.