HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy
Berthold Beitz Professor in Human Rights, Global Affairs and Philosophy


Among the most striking features of the political arrangements on this planet is its division into sovereign states. To be sure, in recent times, globalization has woven together the fates of communities and individuals in distant parts of the world in complex ways. It is partly for this reason that now hardly anyone champions a notion of sovereignty that would entirely discount a state's liability for the effects that its actions would have on foreign nationals. Still, state sovereignty persists as a political fact. The number of states has increased enormously due to upheavals of the twentieth century, and there is nothing in principle morally wrong with the existence of states - or so we will assume. 1 What must be explored, then, are the limits of normatively plausible sovereignty. How bad does a government have to be for outsiders to be allowed to interfere? What responsibilities does a country incur because of its contribution to global warming? What obligations arise through trading? In this paper, we explore another pertinent question: to what extent is a country allowed to influence who lives on its territory by regulating immigration? The angle from which we approach this question continues to be neglected even now that questions of global justice are receiving much attention. Immigration amounts to a change in political relationship, as immigrants alter their standing within one community and acquire a status elsewhere. Yet, it also amounts to an alteration in physical relationship, since the immigrants acquire a relationship.


Blake, Michael, and Mathias Risse. "Immigration and Original Ownership of the Earth." Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics, and Public Policy 23.1 (Spring 2009): 133-167.