In this paper I will defend a limited right to exclusion. Legitimate states are entitled to refuse the entrance of unwanted immigrants, if necessary with force. However, I will also work out leverage points for a cosmopolitan critique of this view, one that starts with national borders as they are and constructs human rights conditionalities as they could be. In particular, I propose an immanent critique of Michael Blake’s jurisdictional theory of immigration. Blake gives a compelling argument that sovereign states have a prerogative to decide upon their own border policies, a prerogative that is only constrained by the international human rights regime. However, even if cosmopolitans accept this argument (which I think they should), they still have good reasons to expand the prevailing human rights regime in three respects: with regard to the classification of basic human rights, the domain of human rights obligations, and blind spots of the current human rights regime.
Early versions of this paper were presented at workshops at Free University Berlin, Hamburg, Düsseldorf and Kassel. I am grateful for the many helpful questions, and I am especially indebted to Joseph Carens’s critical remarks. I agree with him that my apparent differences with the open border view merely lie in the normative point of departure rather than in practical consequences. I am also grateful for the careful comments and corrections by the two reviewers of this journal; and, finally, I want to thank the editors of this special issue for their extremely helpful advice.
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