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USD Questions Morality Of Immigration Policies

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.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press
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
USD Questions Morality Of Immigration Policies GUEST: Matt Zwolinski, director, University of San Diego Center for Ethics, Economics and Public Policy

The president spoke forcefully last night at O'Reilly about his right and the nation's right to restrict travel to the US on the grounds of national security. The courts however are finding that restrictions based on religious grounds are not been with the laws of this country. Where does that leave us? A form tonight will take a step back from that legal argument to a central issue of the debate. Is immigration a human rights? It is one of the first discussions and the University of San Diego's new program called the center for ethics, economics, and public policy. The center's goal is to bring together academics from different yield and different political points of view. Joining me is philosophy professor Matt director of UST's center for ethics economics and public policy. Welcome to the program. It is a pleasure to be here. Why do you think this new center is needed at UST. Not to be too grandiose about it but I believe we are facing a real crisis of civil discourse in this country. Our politics have become more partisan and more extreme. Individuals have become increasingly isolated in these kind of ideological bubbles. These virtual and physical communities of people all of whom share the same fundamental ideological commitments and as a result we have forgotten how to talk with people about whom we disagree about politics What do we miss out on when we do not hear experts from different fields talking about the same complex subjects. I think it is important to have a diversity of perfect -- perspectives both methodologically so I think you should hear from people who bring a moral perspective and talk about issues of rights and justice on issues like immigration and you also want to hear about people who address the economic and political aspects because they are all very interrelated. And you want to hear people who disagree with each other and can talk to each other in a respectful way and not demonize those on the other side of issues as stupid or evil or fundamentally misguided in some way. Specifically conservatives also say -- also -- often say their voices are not heard in academia. Universities are supposed to be the one place in our society were open to be at free inquiry are really how the sacred values but I think unfortunately too many universities have developed into their own client of intellectual bubble were too many faculty members share the same fundamental ideological framework so they never here really imposing -- opposing points of view and students to not get opposed to them so we do not understand them. If we do not speak to people who really believe in certain ideas and you don't understand what those ideas are and why people might believe them and so as a result when the national election goes away that you do not want it to you are shocked and surprised anything the world is collapsing. There's a three -- strain of thought among progressives that believe their views become from being the better educated were conservative points of view are uninformed. Does this seek to counter that view? On both sides of the aisle I think conservatives sometimes think those things about liberals as well. If you support a minimum wage law you must not understand basic economics. I think that is a mistake no matter where that perspective comes from it is important to see and that is a big part of what we are trying to do with these debates that somebody can disagree with you fundamentally about an important issue and oftentimes if you actually listen to them provide a really good argument and really good evidence for the view. To the subject of tonight's discussion who will be debating the issue is immigration a human right. We've got to academics one economist from George Mason University who will be arguing that immigration is a human right and the other individual is Christopher who is a philosopher from Washington University in St. Louis. While the two speakers have a chance to engage with each other and the audience. We are trying to maximize opportunities for engagement here so each presenter will get up and speak for about 10 minutes and have opening remarks laying at the basic structure of the argument after that is that the hotseat segment where each one will take turns asking the other direct questions challenging them questioning their basic premises or data and then we will wrap up with some closing arguments and we will have a pretty extended question and answer. With the audience. So you have an economist who will be talking and support as -- of immigration as a human right and a philosophy professor talking about how nations have the right to restrict immigration. That is sort of a flip in and of itself is in it? It seems that way yes. Actually there is a long tradition of economist being what you may call cosmopolitans on issues of immigration and more well-known free-trade. Economists believe that it is really important for goods and services to really cross borders freely. A lot of them think the same thing about human labor and people for essentially the same reasons. What is the premise of the moral philosophy professor and saying that it is all right to restrict immigration? His view is not necessarily that we should dramatically restrict immigration in the United States it just should be much less than it is right now his claim is about the rights that a nation has as a kind of organization. The idea is our government is this entity that we have set up as a peep to serve some purpose is for us to promote social welfare and justice and provide for the common defense and like any association he believes we have the right and perhaps the necessity to control membership of that organization so just like it before the club you would have a right to say no to people nations could do that on a larger scale. You reference the last election as sort of a wake-up call for a lot of people and some people are still mystified by the results of that is that what has promoted the idea of this century the concept that people are just simply not understanding each other anymore I think that really drove home the need for something like this we have been developing the center like the last three or four years so this basic idea long predates the election but I think the election was an especially important wake-up call and demonstrated to a lot of academics that they simply do not understand how a large portion of the American populace thought about policy -- politics I'm also wondering what you hope the audience will take away from this discussion. It is interesting we had a debate last December after the minimum wage law we have economist's debating whether it was a good idea or not. One of the comments that I received from students afterwards was he was not sure if he changed his mind but he was a lot more confused about the issue now than he was beforehand. [audio interrupted]

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.