The Elusive Rights of an Invisible Population [Excerpt]

Ethics & International Affairs

This is a rich and stimulating piece, which—characteristically of Joseph Carens's work—challenges us to rethink certain suppositions about appropriate responses to migration. Of particular interest is Carens’s suggestion for a so-called firewall protecting irregular migrants' basic rights. This suggestion, which I would like to term the "dualist" position, requires the state to guarantee certain rights of unauthorized migrants while at the same time retaining its prerogative to deny such migrants legal residency. While I find this prima facie a compelling idea, I will suggest that it creates serious problems of coherence and feasibility for the legal and political systems of host countries. I shall also question whether it is ethically tenable on liberal universalist grounds. The key problem for the dualist position, I shall argue, is the basic contradiction between guaranteeing access to rights while denying a right to be present to access such rights.

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