Volume 18

Migration and Self-Determination

by Ilya Somin

Free international migration has enormous benefits. But many argue that governments can legitimately restrict migration in order to protect the supposed “self-determination” of natives. Some claims of this type are based on group rights theories, which hold that members of a particular racial, ethnic, or cultural group are the “true” owners of a particular territory. Others are based on notions of individual freedom of association, which analogize the rights of national governments to those of private property owners or members of a private club. This article criticizes both collective and individual rights theories that purport to justify a power to exclude migrants. It also critiques claims that migrants’ “home” governments can curtail emigration by forcing them to stay.

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