Territorial Exclusion: An Argument against Closed Borders

Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 19 (3):257-90 (2021)
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Abstract

Supporters of open borders sometimes argue that the state has no pro tanto right to restrict immigration, because such a right would also entail a right to exclude existing citizens for whatever reasons justify excluding immigrants. These arguments can be defeated by suggesting that people have a right to stay put. I present a new form of the exclusion argument against closed borders which escapes this “right to stay put” reply. I do this by describing a kind of exclusion that has not been discussed in depth, which I call “territorial exclusion.” Territorial exclusion is the process according to which the group that wishes to exclude current citizens secedes from the territory in which those citizens reside. I argue that the wrongness of territorial exclusion explains why there is no pro tanto right for a state to exclude immigrants, because otherwise there would be a pro tanto right for the state to kick people out by seceding from the territory they inhabit. Because kicking people out like this is typically wrong, borders cannot be closed.

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Daniel Weltman
Ashoka University

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