The right to immigrate and responsibility for the past

Journal of Global Ethics 18 (2):267-285 (2022)
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Abstract

Do past state actions, such as the American conquest of northern Mexico, the British colonization of South Asia, and the Spanish expulsion of the Sephardim and Moriscos, grant contemporary Mexicans, South Asians, and the descendants of the Sephardim and Moriscos a particular right to immigrate to the United States, the United Kingdom, and Spain respectively? In this paper I examine three theoretical models for addressing this question: retrospective responsibility for historic injustice; the principle of coercively constituted identities; and the theory of remedial responsibility. I argue that remedial responsibility best justifies a particular right to immigrate through responsibility for the past for three reasons. First, it relieves us of the epistemological task of establishing causal responsibility. Second, it lessens the normative task of identifying a theory of unjust harm to establish moral responsibility. Finally, it facilitates the normative task of ranking the claims to immigrate of different individuals.

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