Posted: March 24th, 2023

The Ethics of Immigration in North America and Europe: Reading Response

Joseph H. Carens explores the ethical issue of immigration in the context of stable democracies in North America and Europe. He further discusses the way immigration affects perceptions of democracy and the nature of citizenship. From a democratic position, Carens avers that states should avoid discriminating against people based on racial, religious, or gendered backgrounds. Besides, they should respect principles that enhance fairness and reciprocity. This author challenges the conventional view that nations and governments have the fundamental freedom to exercise control on matters relating to immigration. His outlook is in direct contrast with the supposed necessity of respecting democratic principles pertaining to topics such as “access to citizenship, inclusion, residents, temporary workers, irregular migrants, non-discrimination in admissions, family reunification, refugees, and …open borders” (538).

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Regardless of the need to respect state sovereignty or democratic self-determination, Carens claims that countries should use policies relating to immigration, which he views through a moral compass. This perspective is used to criticize past legislation, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act in the United States and denaturalization in Europe. Generally, states should restrict their decisions to human rights and respect their democratic ideals when dealing with ethical issues of immigration.

Carens presents a convincing argument for the morality of immigration in the democratic states in Europe and North America. He asserts that although the issue of immigration is political, it has major ethical implications. From a policy position, democracies have created guidelines that can be challenged. The author supports most of his statements to show the need for the government to respect human rights based on societal norms and values. For instance, a regime that purports to be democratic should not discriminate against people based on race, religion, or gender. He invokes the legal basis for decisions in such countries relating to issues of immigration.

A state that hinders immigrants who qualify for acquiring citizenship goes against its moral obligation. Basically, Carens handles the controversial topic clearly and explicitly to ensure proper understanding. He affirms that his assertions are open to whichever interpretation, but does not leave any room for guesswork regarding his stance on this debatable ethical issue. He explores each of the sub-topics, outlined above, from an ethical standpoint to show why democracies should support immigration. However, rather than settling for a moral viewpoint only, he could have strengthened the argument by considering a political and legal outlook.

The strength of Carens’ discussion proves that he has deeply investigated the topic and reflected on various aspects before concluding. Despite the possibility of other potential claims relating to immigration, he justifies his statements and provides scope for alternative interpretations. Therefore, we must weigh the debate from both political and ethical perspectives to provide precise answers to modern questions and discussions surrounding the issue.

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The United States government faces the challenge of controlling immigration from neighboring states, such as Canada and Mexico, because of related implications with crime. Carens’ claims can be useful in informing the current debate and enabling the nation to create the right policies to address these difficulties. The reading is enlightening, especially regarding the question of whether policymakers, from an ethical standpoint, should allow the inflow of undocumented immigrants.


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