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Border control, reasonable accommodation, and the social contract

Wednesday 22 February 2017, 12.00PM

Speaker(s): Professor Joseph Heath

Most liberal democracies in the world today consider themselves obliged to be “open to immigration.” This immediately poses two very difficult normative questions. The first concerns the level of immigration, or more precisely, how many immigrants a nation must be willing to accept in order to discharge its obligations of justice. At the moment, every liberal democracy that is open to immigration accepts far fewer immigrants than there are applicants. The second question is one that arises after immigrants have arrived. Openness to immigration inevitably produces, or expands the scope of, ethnic pluralism within the society. This gives rise to the question of “reasonable accommodation” – of how much the “receiving society” must adjust its practices and laws in order to meet the demands and expectations of immigrants. In the normative literature, these two questions are often treated as though they were quite separate. My central objective in this paper is to present a normative framework that generates an answer to both questions, about immigration levels and reasonable accommodation, simultaneously. The major conceptual innovation involves viewing immigrants as requesting entry into a system of cooperation, one that is based on institutional preconditions that excessive immigration, or unreasonable accommodations, stand poised to disrupt.

Location: Derwent College, room D/N/104

Admission: All welcome