Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Karen Miller

Subject Categories

Ethics and Political Philosophy


immigration, political philosophy, ethics, cosmopolitanism, national sovereignty, open borders


Do countries have a presumptive right to limit immigration at their discretion? It is often assumed that they do, though both the immigration restrictions championed in practice and the purported justifications for the principled right to deny entry to foreigners are often supported by implicit (or explicit) racist prejudices. Many political philosophers have offered putatively more sophisticated and reasoned defenses of the state’s discretionary right to restrict immigration. I discuss the philosophical arguments for the restrictionist view on grounds of national territorial rights, and separately, on the grounds of nationalist partiality toward one’s fellow citizens. I will argue that both of these apparent grounds for immigration restrictions fail to justify the right to adopt exclusionary policies. My thesis, then, is a negative one, breaking down a philosophical position and dismantling its arguments rather than constructing a new theory. But in casting down a fundamentally flawed theory, my arguments, I believe, gesture toward the outline of a more promising view of just national borders.