Immigration is the process of individuals moving from one place to the other. Immigration in this context means movement of individuals from their country of origin to a foreign country, United States of America (Cornelius, 2001). When examiningimmigration ethics, it is imperativethat the discussion is based on the acknowledgement of both the immigrants and the host country’s residents. Human conditions as well as the factors that promote immigration are complex and thus discussions relating to migration should address the welfares, agendas and apprehensions of all affected individuals in collective humanity.
Immigration brings about moral dilemmas that trigger tension between individuals as well as nations. The main immigration moral dilemma is Americans right to improved lives vs. the American government’s right to safeguard the American borders. This dilemma has two alternatives, opening the borders and allowing America to be a free country or intensifying efforts aimed at curbing illegal immigration.
According to utilitarian, the ethics of an action is dictated by the greatest good produced for the number of people. In this case, the action that would create the greatest good would be for the American government to open the United States borders and exploit the availability of cheap labor that comes with it in order to allow the economy to flourish (North, 2015). Distributive justice on the other hand concerns the equality of the decision-making processes, and may be discriminated with the fairness in which rights of resources are distributed as well as the fairness through which wrongs are punished. In the context of distributive justice, individuals should be allowed to freely move across the countries, furthermore, resources should be distributed equally among all individuals living in the United States regardless of their country of origin, immigrants or not (North, 2015).
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Over the years, the United States has been known to welcome individuals from other regions of the world. Today, people can enter the United States through various means, air, water or land. Immigrants entering the country through air and water are mostly documented since those entry points are closely monitored. This has greatly contributed to reducing illegal immigrations. However, people who enter the United States via land through the New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, and California borders are not easy to monitor, which has increased the number of illegal immigration (Cornelius, 2001). Present policies and prevalent attitudes have also increased the number of undocumented immigrations. Individuals immigrating into the United States through land go back to pre-colonial period but with time. Majority of such migrations tend to be undocumented and their ever-rising number is increasingly becoming an issue. This paper focuses on an ethical approach in examining the current United States immigration state. This evaluation will use utilitarianism principles and justice ethical ideologies.
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Utilitarian theory focuses on the amount of positive consequences created while justice principal focuses on the social system’s integrity, which is dictated by the process of basic rights and responsibilities allocation (Epstein, 1979). These theories will be used to examine whether the current United States immigration policies, practices and believes create the greatest good for the majority of people and/or if they deliver justice to every member of the society, those who immigrate and those who do not.
Theoretical discussions of the ethics of the current immigration situation are still in its infancy. Philosophies that dictate the rights of potential immigrants to cross American borders, as well as the country’s rights to deny individuals the right of entry are yet to be fully developed and understood. Some people argue that the United States has the right to protect her boundaries from unwanted immigrants. Others argue that the individuals have the right to freely cross borders and thus the United States has no moral rightto close her borders to potential immigrants. Both these arguments are based on morality. One is based on absolute deontic right to deny entry while the other is based on absolute impermissibility of closing the United States borders. However, since they advocate for conflicting solutions, this brings about an ethical dilemma.
The immigration service was established in 1981 in the effort to control immigration. The immigration service formulates policies that govern immigration in the United States In 1920, the immigration policies that were in place mainly focused on regulating entry by restraining people from given nationalities, for example, the 1882 to 1952 Chinese exclusion act disallowed Chinese immigration (Cornelius, 2001). The policies waremodified in 1920 in order to enable them to regulate the increasing immigrantswho were straining the United States economy. The amended policiesassignedimmigration quotas that placed limits on the number of immigrants allowed from each country. This modified system regulated the number of immigrants entering and settling in the United States for over 40 years. In 1965, the immigration policies were yet again amended, lifting the country-centered quotas and replacing them with hemisphere- based quotas (North, 2015). The new system encouraged immigration but it also introduced concerns that some regions were favored over others (Epstein, 1979).
As years went by,United States immigration policies evolved and became more and more constricting. Immigration policies were originally designed to housethe needy individuals in the society for instance, people who escaped persecution in their countries of origin and individuals who were seeking a better life (North, 2015).Conversely, the current policies focus on preventing such people from immigrating into the United States Policies have transformed from protecting the less fortunate to preferring the privileged individuals in the society. The current policies make acquiring a residence or a working permit a lengthy and time consuming process. The requirements, cost, amount of time required and probability of the application being rejecteddiscourage potential immigrants from seeking those documents. These restrictions are mainly because the less fortunate are needy and thus tend to drain the country’s already depleted economy while the privileged have resources that can be exploited to improve the country’s economy.
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There are several approaches that potential immigrants can use to attain authorizations to move, settle and work legally in the United States However, the immigration system is innately prejudiced and is seen to violate the distributive justice ethics theory. The justice principle commands that all individuals in a given society have equal rights to basic freedoms including the freedom to move freely. By only allowing certain individuals to immigrate into the United States, the policies deny interested individuals an equal right to the basic liberty, the immigration right (Epstein, 1979). Since the existing policies are intended to select individuals who have notable achievements and are already successful in other parts of the world so as to ensure economic growth, individuals who are struggling in their countries of residence as well as those who do not already have substantial achievements have a limited chance of accessing permission to enter the United States legally (North, 2015). For example, individuals wishing to immigrate into the United States through employment have to be scrutinized under immigration employment policies. These policies however give preference to the smartest individuals, those that are highly skilled, and those that are most athletic in their countries of origin. Normally, people who have such level of achievements tend to be in less or no need to migrate from their countries of origin. This is mainly because their level of proficiency gives them access to the best opportunities their countries and the world at large has to offer. On the other hand, persons whose social and economic status would benefit significantly most from migrating into the United States, such as students seeking higher education and average individuals seeking employment opportunities that they do not have access to in their countries of origin end up having very slim or no chances of getting immigration permits. All these factors have led to an increase in the number of illegal immigrations into the U.S.
Those who believe that the U.S. has the right to protect her borders and deny potential immigrants entry base their arguments on the notion of self-determination. Legitimate states can be said to have the right and entitlement to have authority over their own affairs. A country that governs its own affairs should not be subject to external influence from another country, agency or individuals (North, 2015). Until a country is declared illegitimate by the virtue of the country’s residents human rights being compromised, the country maintain the right to govern and protect its affairs which include its borders. Even in rare circumstances when a country might enact policies that may not be considered to be morally right the country should be left to run its affairs without any external annex as long as the human right of its inhabitants is not brought to question. A legitimate country can run its affairs better than any eternal agents would.
Dictating how the U.S. handles her immigration issues and whether or not the American boarders should be open can be considered as invading her affairs, which would be considered to be morally wrong. The moral justification of this wrong, would be denying the U.S. of her right to be protected against any unwanted membership alteration (Pevnick, 2009). Denying the country her self self-determination, and insisting on open borders would contradict the country’s right to regulate who should and who shouldn’t be a part of the country. The U.S. should be allowed to exercise self-determination, which includes freedom to eliminate unwanted membership variations that entails keeping out any unwanted potential immigrants.
This argument defends the country’s right to exclude individuals who are not members of the state regardless of their economic or social needs. While rich countries such as the U.S. have a duty to help underprivileged members of the society as well as individuals from illegitimate and poor countries, these obligations should not translate to an obligation to allow those less privileged members of the society to immigrate into the U.S. or an obligation to offer them membership to their country (Pevnick, 2009). It can be argued however that wealthier countries’ duty to help underprivileged members of the society translates to an obligation to help prevent circumstances that would give rise to the need for immigration through intervention. Consequently, the admitting potential immigrants is more of a choice than an obligation and thus the U.S. is free to choose whether or not to offer membership to immigrants. Self-determination gives America the moral right to protect herself from unwanted immigrants even when those immigrants stand to benefit enormously by immigrating to the U.S.
Utilitarianism necessitates that the country provides as much good as it can to as many people as it possibly can. The current policies however contradict this principle by only allowing a small number of potential immigrants to enter the country. For example, for a person to qualify for permanent residency through investment, he/she would is required to invest a substantial amount of money in the United States (Epstein, 1979). By setting such high standards for prospective immigrants, the country only provides significant good for a small group of people while neglecting the majority of others who would have wanted to immigrate but do not meet the requirements. Furthermore, those people who can afford such amounts of capital are already successful in their places of residence and thus would not benefit as much as people who are struggling or those who are less successful from immigrating. The people who need to immigrate are less successful and are seeking for opportunities to earn a living those who would benefit enormously from getting membership of wealthy societies (Pevnick, 2009). the Moving to the U.S. would such individuals an opportunity to improve their lives as well as the lives of their dependents but lack of the required demands hinders them from doing so.
After gaining entry into the United States, settlers need to be included into the American social system. The distribution justice principle dictates that all members of a society should have equal access to the available recourses. However, this is not the case in the U.S. The natives tend to get preferential treatment when it comes to sharing and distribution of resources. Although the U.S. government acknowledges that immigrants are entitled to basic rights and opportunities, they do not consider immigrants as deserving of equal treatment with the natives (Carens, 1988). For example, an ageing individual who immigrates into the U.S. and becomes a citizen at old age is not entitled to social security. The argument behind this bias treatment is based on the fact that the elderly individual would have contributed very little or nothing towards the social security program (Carens, 1988). Offering social security t such a person would be considered as injustice to individuals who have contributed towards the program throughout their lives. Earnings of such benefits are therefore calculated in proportion to the amount contributed leaving immigrants to earn less than the natives. Although the argument behind this reasoning is viable, this system of distributing recourses does not give every member of the society equal access to the available recourses and thus it is unjust.
The United States has over the years been a destination of choice for students seeking higher education. The country receives great numbers of students seeking opportunities to further their education and enhance their careers (Pevnick, 2009). The ethical dilemma arises when the country provides education to young people from various parts of the world but denies them the opportunity to work and further their careers. Once students complete their studies, the U.S. does not offer them membership or work permits but instead expects them to return to their countries of origin. Providing education to these young people and then not allowing them to use the skills acquired to benefit the country or themselves generates an ethical concern. By so doing, the United States is failing to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number of people (Epstein, 1979).
The students have studied and acquired skills that the U.S. could exploit in order to enhance her economy and ultimately benefit the country and her general population. Denying the graduating students the opportunity to work in the U.S hinders this benefit. Additionally, these students, having come from illegitimate or poor countries might not get the opportunities to use their skills in their countries of origin. This means that by sending those students back to their countries of origin. The U.S. compromises their chances of benefiting from the skills acquired substantially.
Illegal immigrants are undocumented and they are in most cases not recognized by the state. This means that the government does not consider them as individuals who are entitled to any rights or opportunities. The principle of justice does not have closes excluding such groups of people from the right to equal access to resources. The justice principle dictates that every individual is entitled to fundamental rights and obligations (Epstein, 1979). Although illegal immigrants are in the U.S. illegitimately, they are still human beings who are entitled to basic human rights similar to those given to people who live there legally. The punishment for infringing the country’s policies and laws should not be punishable through violation of the illegal immigrant’s human rights.
Every individual has the right to move freely without any restrictions. It has also been argued that people should be allowed the right to move freely without any restrictions (Carens, 1988). However, in the United States, the right to unrestricted movement is only valid if the subject does not infringe anyone’s property. America is a property of its citizens and thus entering the country without permission violates the right of those citizens. Consequently, denying undocumented immigrants their right can be seen as acting for the greater good of the majority thus observing the utilitarian principle.
Since time in memorial, immigrants were required to “pay their dues” in order to settle in America. Immigrants who arrived in the United States in the early 19th century were discriminated against severely. They were overworked and paid low wages. Although this type of discrimination would not be allowed in the modern society, discrimination is still rampant especially against Latin immigrants who usually receive low wages and poor working conditions. Such kind of exploitation is unethical and not recommended (North, 2015). However, availability of cheap labor allows more work to be accomplished at low cost. This benefits the United States economy and benefits the American residents and thus exploiting the available cheap labor can be perceived as acting in the United States citizens’ best interest. Failure to use immigrants to provide cheap labor would be against the utilitarian principle, as it would not be perusing the greatest good for the greatest number of people.
The United States immigration policies have gone a long way in regulating the number of immigrants entering and settling in the country. This has in turn ensured that the country’s economy remains healthy, which is the greatest good for the American citizens. However, these policies observe neither the utilitarian nor the justice ethical principles. Consequently, the United States should overhaul the existing immigration stances and policies. Moving America towards an effective and a fair immigration policy would not only benefit the country but also its existing and potential citizens.