The Rights of Families and Children at the Border

In Philosophical Foundations of Children's and Family Law. pp. 153-170 (2018)
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Family ties play a particular and distinctive role in immigration policy. Essentially every country allows ‘family-based immigration’ of some sorts, and family ties may have significant importance in many other areas of immigration policy as well, grounding ‘derivative’ rights to asylum, providing access to citizenship and other benefits at accelerated rates, and serving as a shield from the danger of removal or deportation. Furthermore, status as a child may provide certain benefits to irregular migrants or others without proper immigration standing that is not available to adults. Despite the fact that these benefits are extremely widespread, the justification for them remains less than fully clear, and the extent of the benefits required by considerations of justice (as opposed to expediency or other policy considerations) is debated. While essentially all states recognize at least some of these rights, a significant number of them wish to reduce, rescind, or place significant conditions on them. The role of the family in immigration policy, then, stands in need of further clarification. In this paper I attempt to provide the needed clarification and justification. I discuss first questions about family unification or formation, focusing in particular on how broad a right must be provided by states wishing to have a just immigration policy, and on whether this right violates norms of liberal neutrality. I then discuss the family in relation to refugee and asylum policy, considering both when family ties should be given weight in refugee protection decision and when harm to a family member should, on its own, be able to be grounds for applying for refugee protection. I turn next to the question of when, and to what extent, family ties should be able to serve as a “shield” to removal or deportation, and finish with a discussion of the special rights of and obligations to children in immigration settings.



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Matthew J. Lister
Bond University

Citations of this work

The “Generic” Unauthorized.Matthew Lister - forthcoming - Philosophy and Public Issues - Filosofia E Questioni Pubbliche 11 (1):91-110.
Maternity and migration.Amy Reed-Sandoval - 2020 - Philosophy Compass 15 (3):e12657.

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