Doing Justice on Two Fronts: The Liberal Dilemma in Immigration
27 Pages Posted: 10 Aug 2007 Last revised: 5 Nov 2007
Date Written: June 2007
Two hearts beat in every liberal breast. One is the heart of non-discrimination - the commitment to propounding and furthering equal chances for all. This is the heart of human rights liberalism. Such a principle, built around individuals and their free choices, ought to be applicable everywhere and to everyone. There is indeed no obvious liberal principle that can rationalize the consequences that flow from one person's being born in San Diego and another's in Tijuana. This view is sometimes associated with the "global left" and often with the politics of "recognition" and "fairness."
The second liberal principle is communitarian social justice, and that heart beats with almost equal vigor. Redistribution of some sort, effected primarily through the institutions of the state, is owed the poor and exploited, and it is due, first and foremost, and can be accomplished best, in one's own society and for one's own countrymen. This redistributional model recognizes international inequality and injustice, but it prioritizes solidarity with what one might call a community, a nation, or a country. This vision has lost a great deal of ground over the past 35-40 years, especially among elites but also among would-be critical intellectuals. This view is sometimes associated with the "sovereignty left" and often with the politics of "redistribution" and "justice."
The tension may also be construed as part of a larger shift: from a communitarian, citizenship liberalism to a transnational, human rights or cosmopolitan liberalism. This essay examines the material as well as ideological aspects of this tension and looks at how it has reverberated through immigration, citizenship, and labor debates.
Keywords: immigration, citizenship, labor, migration, African-Americans, Mexico, Left, social justice, borders, sovereignty, economics
JEL Classification: J21, J31, J40, K31, N36, O15, P16, A12
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation