Immigrant Selection, Health Requirements, and Disability Discrimination

Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 14 (1) (2018)
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Australia, Canada, and New Zealand currently apply health requirements to prospective immigrants, denying residency to those with health conditions that are likely to impose an “excessive demand” on their publicly funded health and social service programs. In this paper, I investigate the charge that such policies are wrongfully discriminatory against persons with disabilities. I first provide a freedom-based account of the wrongness of discrimination according to which discrimination is wrong when and because it involves disadvantaging people in the exercise of their freedom on the basis of morally arbitrary features of their identity. Discrimination is permissible, I suggest, when it is necessary to advance a valuable exercise of the discriminating agent’s freedom. I then apply this account to the case of social cost health requirements. Against critics of these requirements, I argue that it is sometimes permissible for states to discriminate against prospective immigrants with disabilities. States may do so, I suggest, when such discriminatory treatment is necessary to prevent an increase in rates of mortality and/or morbidity amongst citizens. Alongside critics of social cost health requirements however, I argue that existing policies are likely a form of wrongful discrimination insofar as they are too broad to satisfy this standard.

Author's Profile

Douglas MacKay
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill


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