Published In

Osgoode Hall Law Journal

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Liberalism; Amorality; Humanitarianism; Immigration Law; Equality


The author argues that liberalism does not provide a meaningful standard for assessing whether immigration laws are just. In the absence of a justice standard, immigration laws occupy an amoral realm. Varying strands of liberal theory about membership in society do converge around the humanitarian ideal that some people are so needy that they must be admitted on a moral basis. The humanitarian consensus, however, is unhelpful for most of the broad societal debates about immigration, and is a front for discursive cohesion without any underlying agreement. Humanitarianism is a pragmatic tool for shifting law and policy, but must be used with caution because of its foundation in inequality.