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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Immigration Ethics

The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics explores ethical issues in immigration.

What Is Immigration Ethics?

by Jonathan Kwan, Inclusive Excellence Postdoctoral Fellow in Immigration Ethics with the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.

Immigration ethics refers broadly to the normative issues that arise from the movement of individuals across borders. One of the central questions in immigration ethics concerns whether states should restrict immigration or open their borders and what should be the values on the basis of which this determination is made. Although much of the public discourse on immigration is framed in binary terms (one is either for or against immigration), immigration ethics encompasses many issues beyond, though also including, the question of whether states should limit immigrant admissions. For instance, once immigrants have entered a state, what rights and privileges should they have? Should unauthorized immigrations have access to a path to citizenship?

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One Column
Immigration protest signs saying
Words Matter: Illegal Immigrant, Undocumented Immigrant, or Unauthorized Immigrant?

The labels we use to refer to different classes of individuals are not merely neutral descriptors but often implicitly come with various associations or value judgments, which can, in turn, frame and influence political debates.

The Economic Argument for Increasing Immigration

Economics and ethics partner to help make the case for increased immigration.

people waiting at immigration checkpoint at the U.S./Mexico border
What are Our Duties to Asylum Seekers? Start by Ending the “Remain in Mexico” Program

In reality, the “Remain in Mexico” program is a way for the U.S. government to avoid adjudicating the claims of asylum seekers in the first place and to keep the violations of their basic human rights out of sight and out of mind to the U.S. public.

    Two Column

    Ethics Spotlight: The Ethics of Immigration

    A collection of articles addressing key ethical immigration dilemmas.

    Consider Perspectives

    Immigration Articles

    Articles on the ethical issues in immigration such as citizenship, migration, borders, ICE, and other related topics.


    Case Studies

    Case studies pertaining to immigration ethics issues.