Why have immigration? David Miller on immigration policy

Miller’s “Strangers in Our Midst” (2015) is the Oxford University professor’s latest work on immigration policy from the perspective of political philosophy. He says that immigration policy is more than “weighing up economic gains and losses or protecting human rights, it also raises difficult questions about the way we understand ourselves as members of political communities with long histories and rich cultures.”

I’m going to try to summarize how Miller thinks immigration policy should be designed – that is, primarily as an expression of political values. He says that for a liberal democracy, immigration policy should by guided by four values (pg. 157):

Cosmopolitanism: should we consider all the world’s people as fundamentally equal, with equal rights of movement, residence and social and political rights? Miller says in contrast with universal equality, members of a society have obligations to each other that need to be recognized and fulfilled otherwise the nation state can’t be preserved. He calls these “associative obligations.” He calls this “weak cosmopolitanism.”

National self-determination: the democratic nation state must provide immigrants substantially equal rights and protections of native-born citizens, including access to citizenship, but can limit immigration in order to preserve internal mutual trust and true self-determination. Separate and exclusive cultural identities can erode self-determination in is view.

Fairness: He seems to say that a democratic nation state must adhere unconditionally to its principles of distributive justice and reciprocity of obligations between the state and individuals, regardless of citizenship status (or even legal right to be in the country).

Social integration: Miller’s fourth value is to me an attribute of national self-determination.

He thinks of refugees as a unique class. States have a “remedial obligation” to admit them because their states do not ensure human rights (pg. 92). States have a duty of care to make sure they do not have to return to their country of origin (pg. 78).

(This post was originally made in 2016.)

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