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USD Questions Morality Of Immigration Policies

President Donald Trump signs an executive order for border security and immig...

Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press

Above: President Donald Trump signs an executive order for border security and immigration enforcement improvements at the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, Jan. 25, 2017.

USD Questions Morality Of Immigration Policies


Matt Zwolinski, director, University of San Diego Center for Ethics, Economics and Public Policy


U.S. federal judges in two states blocked President Trump's renewed travel ban on Wednesday night, the executive order was set to go into effect on Thursday. The order would have temporarily banned new visas for travelers from six Muslim-majority countries and suspended the U.S. refugee program.

U.S. District Court Judge Derrick K. Watson, in Hawaii, based his opinion on constitutional protections against religious discrimination, as well as negative impacts the ban would have on the state’s economy.

A debate Thursday night at the University of San Diego will take up another criticism of federal policy: Is immigration a moral right? It is one of the first events at USD's new Center for Ethics, Economics and Public Policy, led by philosophy professor Matt Zwolinski. One of the center's aims is to address large questions that require expertise from multiple disciplines to answer.

"What is a just distribution of income? What do we owe as a society to the poorest members?" Zwolinski said. "But philosophers alone aren’t enough to answer those questions. You need to know how the tax system works."

Washington University in St. Louis moral philosopher Christopher Wellman will argue that states are not only permitted, but are required, to restrict immigration in order to ensure a country's common good. George Mason University economist Bryan Caplan counters that countries have a moral imperative to enforce open borders for people who voluntarily want to enter.

"Although Wellman is defending the anti-immigration stance, he’s not saying immigration will imperil our future. It’s more moderate, compared to Caplan who is more radical," Zwolinski said. "Caplan believes it’s an unjust use of the state’s power of coercion."

Zwolinski joins KPBS Midday Edition on Thursday with more on the upcoming debate and his center's work to increase political diversity in academia.

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