The Case for the International Governance of Immigration

International Theory 8 (1):140-170 (2016)
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States have rights to unilaterally determine their own immigration policies under international law and few international institutions regulate states’ decision-making about immigration. As a result, states have extensive discretion over immigration policy. In this paper, I argue that states should join international migration institutions that would constrain their discretion over immigration. Immigration restrictions are morally risky. When states restrict immigration, they risk unjustly harming foreigners and restricting their freedom. Furthermore, biases and epistemic defects pervasively influence states’ decision-making about immigration policy. States should transfer some of their decision-making authority over immigration to more reliable institutions in order to mitigate the risks that they will unjustly restrict immigration. International institutions that include the interests of potential immigrants would be more reliable with respect to immigration policy than unilateral state decision-making. Thus, states should subject their immigration policies to international control.



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Javier Hidalgo
University of Richmond

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