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Social Philosophy Today

Volume 25, 2009

Gender, Diversity, and Difference

Peter W. Higgins
Pages 149-162

Immigration Justice
A Principle for Selecting Just Admissions Policies

This paper is addressed to those who hold that states’ immigration policies are subject to cosmopolitan principles of justice. I have a very limited goal in the paper, and that is to offer a condensed explication of a principle for determining whether states’ immigration policies are just. That principle is that just immigration policies may not avoidably harm disadvantaged social groups (whether domestic or foreign). This principle is inspired by the failure, among many extant cosmopolitan proposals for regulating immigration, to attend to the morally salient fact that all national societies are cleaved by social institutions that create distinct groups of individuals, often privileging some and disadvantaging others. In this paper I explicate this principle in terms of three questions: (1) What is a social group? (2) Under what conditions is a social group disadvantaged? And (3) what is it to avoidably harm a social group?

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