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


The United States is a nation of immigrants. For centuries, waves of migrants and refugees have arrived in America seeking economic opportunity or religious freedom. While many have found what they desired, and assimilated into American culture, many others have encountered persecution, resentment, and xenophobia. As the third rail of American politics, immigration has long been a source of controversy, with policy split between two competing visions of what the country could be: on the one hand, a rights-oriented, humanitarian vision that imagines open doors to opportunity and shelter; on the other hand, an exclusionary and Ameri-centric vision that imagines protected, walled-off borders. Recently, our politics and media have been flooded with images of the latter: children piled into cages at detention camps, migrant caravans “invading” the southern border, endless fights in the courts over walls and travel bans. These images did not originate with the Trump administration—previous presidents have also pursued anti-immigration policies on asylum and deportations—though the current administration has greatly exacerbated them. Building on the well-established legal foundation for a rights-based vision of immigration, comprehensive reform in due process and humanitarian protections are necessary for those arriving at our borders.


Shattuck, John, and Mathias Risse. "Reimagining Rights and Responsibilities in the United States: Immigration." Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, February 4, 2021.