Migration and Self-Determination

32 Pages Posted: 14 Jun 2021 Last revised: 16 Jun 2021

See all articles by Ilya Somin

Ilya Somin

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School

Date Written: June 14, 2021


Free international migration has enormous benefits. But many argue that governments can legitimately restrict migration in order to protect the supposed “self-determination” of natives. Some claims of this type are based on group rights theories, which hold that members of a particular racial, ethnic, or cultural group are the “true” owners of a particular territory, or that democratic self-government inherently requires a right to exclude immigrants. Others are based on notions of individual freedom of association, which analogize the rights of national governments to those of private property owners or members of a private club. This article criticizes both collective and individual rights theories that purport to justify a power to exclude migrants. It also critiques claims that the governments of migrants’ countries of origin can rightfully curtail emigration by forcing them to stay. I address these issues in much greater detail in my book Free to Move: Foot Voting, Migration, and Political Freedom, on which this article is in part based.

Keywords: Foot voting, Voting with your feet, federalism, political freedom, immigration, migration, democracy, self-determination, property rights, freedom of association, treaties, racial discrimination, ethnicity, Donald Trump, Sarah Song, Christopher Wellman, Michael Blake, Michael Walzer

JEL Classification: F16, F22, K33, K37, P14, P16, P48, R11, R5, H10, H11

Suggested Citation

Somin, Ilya, Migration and Self-Determination (June 14, 2021). Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy, Vol. 18, No. 3, pp. 805-835, 2020 (Symposium on The Ethics of Democracy), George Mason Legal Studies Research Paper No. LS 21-08, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3866638 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3866638

Ilya Somin (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://sls.gmu.edu/ilya-somin/

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