Association, property, territory: what is at stake in immigration?

  • Zoltán Miklósi Department of Political Science, Central European University (Budapest)
Keywords: right to exclude, freedom of association, property, territorial rights


It is often claimed that states have territorial rights, and that these rights include the right to exclude people who seek admission to their territory. In this paper I will examine whether the most defensible account of territorial rights can provide support to the right to exclude. I will discuss three types of theories of territorial rights. The first account links the right of states to exclude to the prior right of individuals to freedom of association, which is said to include the right not to associate and to dissociate. The second is a Lockean theory that grounds the territorial rights of states, and hence their right to exclude, in the prior right of individuals to private property in the land that constitutes the territory of the state. I argue that these  accounts have independently implausible implications, regardless of their implications for the immigration debate. The third account is a Kantian theory that bases the territorial jurisdiction of states on individuals’ duty to create, sustain and submit themselves to a shared system of law that is a necessary condition of guaranteeing their rights and of discharging their duties towards one another. I will argue that the Kantian account is superior to its current alternatives. However, I also suggest that it cannot ground a broad right to exclude.


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