Interrogating the legitimacy of immigration law (completed)

Caleb Yong

Caleb Yong’s primary research project focused on the legitimacy of immigration law. To date, the philosophical literature on immigration has mostly focused on the substantive justice of immigration restrictions. A distinct question is whether immigration law has legitimate authority over those whose conduct it claims to regulate, i.e., whether those persons subject to immigration law have a moral duty, or at least strong moral reasons, to comply with the directives of immigration law even when they do not believe that these directives are substantively justified. A special problem for any account of the legitimacy of immigration law is that the main subjects of immigration law - namely, would-be immigrants - are excluded from participating in the political processes by which the immigration laws of their intended receiving state are enacted. As a consequence, at least with respect to would-be immigrants, immigration law’s legitimacy cannot be grounded in principles of democratic legitimacy. Caleb argues that there is an alternative source of immigration law’s legitimacy, i.e., the external or international legitimacy of the receiving state. If a state is properly recognized as having external legitimacy, then other states and their respective individual members are morally required not to undermine the capacity of that state to achieve its legitimate domestic policy goals. Since widespread noncompliance with a state’s immigration laws would undermine its capacity to pursue its domestic policy goals, this project contends that externally-legitimate state immigration laws themselves have legitimate authority over would-be immigrants.

Representative publication:

Yong, C. (2018). Justifying resistance to immigration law: The case of mere noncompliance. Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence, 31(2), 459-481. doi:10.1017/cjlj.2018.20.

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