The Ethics of Immigration

Joseph H. Carens. Oxford Univ., $35 (384p) ISBN 978-0-19-993383-9
University of Toronto political scientist Carens (Culture, Citizenship, and Community) makes an ardent case for open borders and fewer immigration controls. The title is misleading, as the book is entirely devoted to exploring Carens’s own ethical system, which he grounds in “liberal democratic values” and “moral commitments.” This elegantly argued but self-righteous opus is an abstract of grand ideas that will appeal to transnationalists looking for scholarly juice. By the time other readers get to Carens’s “theory of social membership,” less than halfway through the book, they will likely have wearied of the author’s preachy and smug tome. Should or should not citizens of English-speaking nations and Europe make immigration to their counties more difficult and prevent noncitizens from advancing themselves through immigration? What about a nation’s presumed interest in “cultural preservation”? What of newcomers with criminal records? Migrants on welfare? Carens says not to worry, in so many words, concluding: “There are no compelling arguments against open borders at the level of principle.” Carens covers the plight of refugees, guest workers, and other displaced persons with nuance and sympathy. Academic readers who think that unrestrained immigration into Western nations would advance world equality and multiculturalism will welcome the author’s arguments. Those trying to make sense of troubling, impenetrable, reform-resistant immigration policies in the U.S. are unlikely to find this book helpful. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 10/14/2013
Release date: 11/01/2013
Genre: Nonfiction
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