Morality of violating restrictive immigration laws
This page lists resources on various opinions that people have expressed regarding the morality of violating restrictive immigration laws. It is related to the legal versus illegal distinction. There is a spectrum of positions on the issue:
- Restrictive immigration laws are just, whether or not they are wise, and it is morally obligatory to comply with them simply because they are laws.
- Restrictive immigration laws are not just, but they are not unjust enough to make it morally permissible to violate them. Rather, if these laws are created and enforced democratically, efforts should be made to change the laws rather than circumvent them.
- Restrictive immigration laws are sufficiently unjust that it is morally permissible to violate them, but not morally praiseworthy or morally obligatory to violate the laws.
- Restrictive immigration laws are sufficiently unjust that it is morally permissible to violate them, but not morally praiseworthy to violate them, and morally desirable to not try to stop others from violating them.
Here are some writings on this issue:
- Six Theses on Extremely Unjust Laws I Dare You to Dispute by Bryan Caplan, where he argues that violating or circumventing immigration restrictions is morally praiseworthy, and taking extra steps to enforce these restrictions is morally wrong.
- Nathanael Smith’s book Principles of a Free Society makes an analogy between violating restrictive immigration laws and civil disobedience or satyagraha. The book is quoted and the ideas further discussed in Smith’s article A Face for the Faceless for The American and his Open Borders blog post Undocumented No Longer.
- Vipul Naik compares the morality of violating restrictive immigration and emigration laws in a blog post titled immigration, emigration, and the rule of law for the Open Borders blog, October 25, 2012.
- Human Smuggling is Morally Good by Scott McPherson.
- What Part of “Illegal” Really Matters? by Scott McPherson.
Quote from Smith’s book:
The general liberty to use the streets therefore has a basis in natural rights, applies equally to citizens and non-citizens of a state, and cannot be justly restricted by a government except when the streets are used in ways that constitute an objective danger to its citizens’ safety (e.g., drunk-driving, gang-warfare, or the transportation of hostile armies). Illegal immigrants are (at least in some cases) conducting a form of civil disobedience against an unjust law. It is the law, not the immigrant, which is in the wrong, and the law should be changed, rather than the immigrant removed.
Smith, Nathanael. Principles of a Free Society (Kindle Locations 2689-2693). The Locke Institute. Kindle Edition.