Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Claudia Mills

Second Advisor

Alison Jaggar

Third Advisor

Michael Blake

Fourth Advisor

Adam Hosein

Fifth Advisor

Steve Vanderheiden


The philosophical discussion on immigration has been dominated by the debate over the state’s right of exclusion. Scholars who focus on the question of exclusion have missed an important first step, which needs to be taken before exclusion can be considered at all. This step is to ask what justifies a state to take any kind of harmful measure against immigrants in the first place. Only after that question is answered by showing that states have significant morally legitimate interests that ought to be secured, may we then ask what kinds of harmful measures a state may use against immigrants in order to secure these interests. Exclusion is one such measure, but I argue that it is not the only one and, in fact, is likely to be a disproportionally harmful measure since less harmful measures can be used to achieve the same goal. The argument in this dissertation is unique in that while it may turn out to entail de facto open borders, it is compatible with securing the central thing that traditional opponents of open borders argue for, namely, the legitimate interests of the state. In short, I argue that we can grant full moral weight to any legitimate interest the closed borders advocate believes requires closing the borders to secure—including, perhaps, things like national solidarity, the preservation of culture, the protection of language—and my theory will still show that the justification to secure this interest will actually fail to entail closing the borders in most circumstances.