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Poverty and Immigration Policy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 April 2015

University of Edinburgh
Kieran Oberman is Chancellor's Fellow in Politics at University of Edinburgh, 22 George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9LF (


What are the ethical implications of global poverty for immigration policy? This article finds substantial evidence that migration is effective at reducing poverty. There is every indication that the adoption of a fairly open immigration policy by rich countries, coupled with selective use of immigration restrictions in cases of deleterious brain drain, could be of significant assistance to people living in poor countries. Empirically there is nothing wrong with using immigration policy to address poverty. The reason we have to reject such an approach is not empirical but normative. People have human rights to stay in their home country and to migrate elsewhere. Counter poverty measures that require people to move or to stay are likely to violate these rights. Everyone should be free to migrate but no one should be forced to migrate. Using immigration policy to address global poverty, in place of alternatives, fails on both these counts.

Research Article
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2015 

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