What’s wrong with ethnic and racial discrimination in immigration policy?

In a new book edited with Lea Ypi, Migration in Political Theory, Sarah Fine argues that political theorists should pay more attention to the role of ethnic and racial discrimination in immigration policy. She calls on those scholars who argue for a right of states to exclude immigrants to explain how their theories manages to diagnose what is wrong with such discrimination. One of those scholars is Christopher Heath Wellman, who argues that states have a right to exclude immigrants on the basis of freedom of association. In this episode, they discuss what it wrong with ethnic and racial discrimination in immigration policy and what problems it poses for theories on the ethics of immigration. Fine introduces her critique by suggesting that theories of immigration restrictions cannot, despite what they appear from the scholarly work in this field, so easily be separated from the history of discrimination in immigration policies.

What we have is an easy way of being able to suggest that we can separate out that kind of history of racism and so forth, from justification for immigration restriction. I actually think that we should really press on this.

Sarah Fine

Sarah Fine, Lecturer in Philosophy at King’s College London, researches the ethics of immigration and her work suggests that there may be few, or no, reasons for why states are permitted to exclude would-be immigrants. Find out more about her research here and here.

What would be extremely problematic for accounts like mine would be if someone came up with a very clear and compelling explanation which was unavailable to my account: If someone could say “this is why discrimination in this context is wrong, and you can’t accommodate it”.

Christopher Heath Wellman

Christopher Heath Wellman is Professor of Philosophy at Washington University and has written extensively on the question of immigration and self-determination, for example here and here.

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