From birthright citizenship to open borders? Some doubts

Ethical Perspectives 21 (4):608-614 (2014)
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This paper argues that by overestimating the importance of citizenship rights, the ethics of immigration turns away from the more serious problem of closed borders. Precisely, this contribution is a threefold critique of Carens’ idea that "justice requires that democratic states grant citizenship at birth to the descendants of settled immigrants" (Carens, 2013: 20). Firstly, I argue that by making 'justice' dependent on states and their attributes (birthright citizenship), this idea strengthens methodological nationalism which views humanity as naturally divided into bounded nation-states. Secondly, I analyze its justification and argue that grounding (citizenship) rights on the existence of social connections is logically and morally problematic. Thirdly, I analyze its scope (granting rights to the descendants of the ‘settled’) and its method of implementation (granting citizenship rights automatically ‘at birth’). While from a less sedentarist perspective, no one can be considered ‘settled’ in advance, I will express some doubts that granting citizenship rights is always automatically a way to extend people’s rights. All in all, I argue that by its justification, scope and method of implementation, this idea moves us away from, rather than gets us closer to, an open-borders world
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