Prompt 2 (3020: Global Justice 2016)

Should Undocumented Immigrants be Deported?

Contrasting the exodus of refugees in Syria, the United States, too, has witnessed “one of the largest peacetime outflows of people” in recent history (Economist 2014)-deporting record numbers of undocumented immigrants (exceeding 400,000) in recent years (Pew Research Center 2013).  This is especially concerning to some because many of the immigrants crossing our borders are unaccompanied minors (New York Times 2014), because many undocumented immigrants-from refugees from the Middle East and North Africa (National Geographic 2015) to those from Central America-flee their countries to escape rampant violence and severe poverty (Washington Post 2016, Pew Research Center 2014), because unauthorized immigrants have children while in the U.S. and deportation threatens to tear families apart (Huffington Post 2014), and because many immigrants accept grave risks for the promise of a better life (New York Times 2016, Guardian 2015).

Not only have status quo immigration policies fueled black-market smuggling networks and growing animosity toward immigrants of racial, cultural, and religious minorities (regardless of their legal status), but some (like Carens 2008) have argued that our current immigration policies toward undocumented immigrants violate fundamental rights.

In thinking about the contrasting claims Carens (2008) and Walzer (1983) draw about the rights of migrants, and also about the contrasting conclusions defended in the majority and dissenting opinions in Plyer v. Doe (1981), what do you believe the rights of undocumented migrants are?  Should immigrants who are unlawfully living in the United States be subject to deportation?  In answering this question, you must discuss one real-world example that illustrates your conclusion.

PLEASE NOTE: with these sorts of normative questions that we’ll be engaging throughout the semester, where there is no clear right or wrong answer, you must do more than merely state your opinion.  This would fundamentally fail to satisfy the expectations of these thesis-driven and evidence-based writing assignments.  Your task is to take a stand on the issue and to defend this position by writing an educated and informed response, incorporating specific ideas from the readings that support your thesis.


Filed under 3020_2016: Global Justice

7 responses to “Prompt 2 (3020: Global Justice 2016)

  1. Emma S.

    A Yes to Education, A No to Felons

    The debate over how to respond to undocumented migrants is complicated. From a humanitarian perspective, these migrants deserve the same basic human rights as any other person. This does not necessarily qualify them for the full range of privileges granted to citizens, nor does it automatically require deportation.

    Carens takes a stance supporting the rights of undocumented migrants. He offers an appealing argument in favor of the education of undocumented migrant children. He states, “free public education should be regarded as a basic human right” (Carens 2008: 8). A child without an education is left without the tools needed to succeed in our society. Education becomes a state’s moral obligation. This concept becomes more controversial when considering higher education. Recently, a number of states have authorized in-state tuition to undocumented migrants who have successfully completed high school. A few of these states have additionally granted undocumented migrants financial aid (Harris 2015). In principle, I agree that receiving access to education should be a right for undocumented migrants. I believe that there is a priority to those who pay taxes, which many undocumented migrants do (Soergel 2016). In this sense, tax-paying undocumented migrants are taking on the responsibilities of citizenship. Thus these people deserve the same educational privileges such as access to federal financial aid.

    Walzer, while not focusing on education, asserts that each individual political community should have the right to legislate its own immigration policies (Walzer 1983: 16). His stance offers justification for states that reject my premise and do not allow undocumented migrants the opportunity to go to school (assuming a state within the United States qualifies as being its own political community). As a federation, the United States operates with differing legislation at the local, state and national levels regarding education. This is a foundational property of the United States. Nevertheless, the Bureau of Justice Statistics cites that, “68% of State prison inmates did not receive a high school diploma” (Harlow, 2003). This is a staggering figure that strongly stresses the importance of education for our society. States should all recognize the profound value of education for both citizens and non-citizens alike.

    While I strongly advocate for the access to education for undocumented migrants, this position does not overlook the fact that these people are noncitizens. If an undocumented migrant were to be convicted of a felony, the host country should retain the right to deport this individual. They are here illegally. Therefore, the undocumented person has then become a financial liability. The privileges of residency should then be rescinded. These are reasonable parameters that can be set around undocumented persons without jeopardizing their essential human rights.

    Carens, Joseph H. “The rights of irregular migrants.” Ethics and International Affairs 22.2 (2008): 163-186.

    Harlow, Caroline Wolf. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). Education and Correctional Populations. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 01 Jan. 2003. Web. 06 June 2016.

    Harris, Elizabeth A. Financial Aid for Undocumented Students Is Losing Its Stigma. The New York Times, 25 Feb. 2015. Web. 06 June 2016.

    Soergel, Andrew. ‘Undocumented’ Immigrants Pay Billions in Taxes. U.S.News and World Report, 1 Mar. 2016. Web. 06 June 2016.

    Walzer, Michael. Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality. New York: Basic, 1983. Print.

    • Chandler G.

      We Must Protect The Rights Of Undocumented Immigrants

      Response to Emma S.

      Morally, I believe that undocumented immigrants should have all of the basic rights as any other citizen. Personally, I see it pretty simply, people are people; despite categories legal documents create.

      Undocumented immigrants living in the United States should not be subjected to deportation. Migrants coming into this country are seeking refuge, opportunities, safety, to put it frankly, they are seeking to live somewhere better. Immigrants should not be punished because the system failed them. The system is what needs to be assessed. If an undocumented immigrant is first generation, then they most establish permanent residency for five years before one can apply for naturalization. The actual citizen application itself can take between six months to a year. After that has been processed, one must be scheduled for a test and an interview, the waiting process depends on the wait list before them. Finally, it takes on average 180 days for the exam to be processed before one can become a citizen (US Immigration 2011).

      Undocumented immigrants who are following the law, should have all of the basic rights Americans have. I agree with Carens and Emma, education is a right of undocumented immigrants. I also agree that there is an added layer to the discussion when taxes are incorporated. However, it is not as large as an issue as many may believe. A study from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found that “immigrants illegally in the U.S. collectively contribute nearly $12 billion each year to state and local tax coffers,” (Soergel 2016).

      People are more likely than not to leap to conclusions about the stereotypes of undocumented immigrants. But, that’s just that, they are stereotypes. More often undocumented immigrants look like Larissa Martinez. Martinez was valedictorian of her graduating high school in Texas. She graduated with a 4.95 GPA, took seventeen AP courses, is on her way to Yale, and she is an undocumented immigrant. She entered the US from Mexico in 2010 with her sister and mother in attempt to escape an abuse father. Martinez said it best on the issue, “The most important part of the debate and the part most often overlooked is the fact that immigrants, undocumented of otherwise, are people too,” (Rogers 2016).

      “How Long Does the US Citizenship Process Take?” American Immigration Center. N.p., Sept. 2011. Web. 11 June 2016.

      Rogers, Katie. “2 Valedictorians in Texas Declare Undocumented Status, and Outrage Ensues.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 10 June 2016. Web. 12 June 2016.

      Soergel, Andrew. “‘Undocumented’ Immigrants Pay Billions in Taxes.” US News. U.S.News & World Report, 1 Mar. 2016. Web. 12 June 2016.

  2. Misha Z.

    Protecting the rights of undocumented immigrants is American justice

    In order to understand any issue we must understand the players involved. When debating deportation we must understand why undocumented migrants are entering the US. Many undocumented migrants enter the US because, as we often hear in popular rhetoric, they are “seeking a better life.” This phrase does not accurately depict the reasons for many migrants entering the U.S. Many migrants are fleeing war, poverty, persecution or abuse. They are not merely seeking a “better life” rather they are fighting for their lives. Many people who support deportation argue that undocumented migrants are criminals who have refused to follow the rules. However in 2013 “the total estimated backlog for legal immigration [was] 4 million people” and getting a green card can take decades. (Robbins, 2013) For many this line is far too long and their need is too dire to wait. One woman currently held in a Texas immigration detention center explained to reporters at the Huffington Post that she came to the U.S. after experiencing violence and rape at the hands of gang members in El Salvador. Fearing for her life and her daughter’s she fled only to be detained and watch as her daughter experienced sexual abuse inside the detention center. She has been denied asylum despite her fear that her return to El Salvador would be deadly. (Planas, 2016). Although not all immigration stories follow this plot many do and until our legal immigration process is fixed we cannot deport our fellow human beings back into situations that threaten their lives or that will violate their human rights. That is not to say that there should not be consequences for entering illegally but detention and deportation are not humane consequences.

    Another important part of the immigration debate is what rights undocumented immigrants are entitled to once they have crossed the border. I agree with Carens that once an individual is in the US, regardless of how they got here, they are entitled to some basic human rights that we claim to be central to our understanding of justice. These rights include education, the right to a fair trial and protection from abuses. These are rights that Americans tend to believe that all people have regardless of their country of origin. The violation of these rights in other countries has been used to justify taking military and economic action against other countries. If we can make this claim that people outside of our borders deserve these rights then we can certainly claim that those within our borders have these rights as well. Some may argue that because undocumented immigrants have broken the law they have forfeited their rights. I will point out that even violent criminals behind bars have been deemed to be entitled to certain protections. I also firmly agree with Caren’s emphasis on the need for firewalls that ensure that undocumented migrants do not have their rights violated and that they are able to report any violations. If we agree that certain rights are to be classified as human rights then we have a moral obligation to ensure these rights for all people regardless of immigration statues. These rights include the aforementioned as well as a safe place to live making deportation and the deprivation of certain rights immoral.

    Planas, Roque. “One Child’s Sexual Abuse Allegations Show The Problems With Our Immigration System.” The Huffington Post, 6 May 2016. Web. 8 June 2016.

    Robbins, Ted. “The ‘Line’ For Legal Immigration Is Already About 4 Million People Long.” NPR. 21 Feb. 2013. Web. 9 June 2016.

  3. Wyatt R.

    Life and Liberty: The Rights of Migrants are Inalienable

    In his article, Carens argues that migrants are “morally entitled to a wide array of legal rights” (Carens, 165). Around the world, including here in the United States, the discussion of immigration is a daily occurrence– from the rhetoric of Donald Trump, to stories of welcoming in migrants like that of Canada. While the discussion often revolves around keeping migrants out, there seems to be no discussion about protecting migrants and their ability to feel a sense of safety and security, regardless of their legal status. That said, Carens argument that migrants do possess a set of rights, regardless of their status, is refreshing, and one that should be codified into law in countries around the world. While it can be argued, as Carens does, that states have a “right to control entry and deport irregular migrants” (Carens, 165), there should be no question as to the inherent right to basic civil rights, like that of life and liberty.

    In my opinion, a migrant should have one of the most basic rights: to be protected. The issue with assuming that migrants have no rights if they are in a country illegally means that they are deprived of a feeling of safety and security. No rational state would imply that a migrant shouldn’t have the protection of police or government, nor the right to trail and justice– that said, it’s not something that is evidently clear in current global laws. For example, there’s been an uptick in crimes against migrants in Germany, and according to the media, “authorities had not adequately investigated, prosecuted or sentenced people for racist crimes” (AlJazeera, 2016). It can be inferred that many migrants don’t feel their most basic “universal” rights are being protected, and the failure to make migrants feel safe is unacceptable– we, as citizens of the world, must recognize that migrants are people, just like us, and deserve the most basic feeling of security.

    In my opinion, Migrants should also be guaranteed the right to basic healthcare. This would not be a popular opinion, especially here in the United States considering the cost, however it’s shameful that countries around the world possess the ability to help people in desperate need of healthcare, but would rather let a person perish because of their inability to pay for these services. A prime example of a state that is leading the charge to give this basic right to migrants is California: according to U.S. News and World Report, “the country’s most populous state has passed a bill that, in fact, seeks to extend Obamacare to people regardless of their immigration status” (Leonard, 2016).

    This is truly a step in the right direction, because no person should face death because of their legal status or inability to pay.

    I do believe that border controls are necessary to keep countries safe, and as such I do believe each country has the right to deport individuals who are not in the country legally if they continue to not play by the rules. However, this right does not equate to a country taking away the most basic rights from migrants, no matter how long they are in a country. If we are truly concerned with promoting global justice and peace, we as citizens of the world should do everything in our power to lookout for the rights of our fellow man.

    Leonard, K. (n.d.). California Moves Toward Extending Obamacare to Illegal Immigrants. Retrieved June 10, 2016, from

    Germany ‘failing to deal’ with surge in hate crimes. (2016, June 10). Retrieved June 10, 2016, from

    Carens, J. H. (n.d.). The Rights of Irregular Migrants. 165. Retrieved June 10, 2016, from

    • Briana C.

      The United States’ Pragmatic Responsibilities for Illegal Immigrants

      Response to Wyatt R.

      I agree with Carens’ argument that illegal immigrants have the basic right of emergency medical care, along with freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Legal precedent does not impede irregular immigrants from those basic human rights. But “emergency” is the key word here—because they are not in the country legally, the United States does not have an obligation to provide them with healthcare. Thousands of U.S. citizens do not even have healthcare. In an article published by U.S. News and World Report, Daniel Stein demonstrates that “extending the full range of benefits to people who have no legal right to be in the country is unjustified and would add billions of dollars to the cost of a healthcare overhaul” (Stein 2009: 1). I argue that yes, morally and ethically, we are responsible for helping those in need; but from a realistic standpoint the nation cannot afford to include undocumented immigrants as citizens of the United States.

      Instead of focusing all American efforts in the debate and discourse of whether or not to allow immigrants into the country, we should be making more strides to helping these irregular immigrants become legal. Partisan gridlock has repeatedly prevented Congress from overhauling the immigration system (Fitz 2012: 2). Politics have continuously hindered the United States government from reaching a plausible and ethically sound solution. As Carens’ explained, actors engaged in this discourse have radically different starting points, repeatedly making no effort to understand the opposing perspectives. In actuality, I argue that illegal immigrants are morally entitled to basic rights as human beings, but these rights should not come at the expense of citizens paying higher taxes. We have no moral or ethical responsibility to pay for illegal immigrants; hundreds of thousands of families in the nation struggle to put food on the table. Therefore, it is hard to justify asking these citizens to pay for strangers who are residing in the country illegally. Rather than focusing funds and personnel in the fight to deport them, the United States should place more efforts on making sure immigrants enter the country legally rather than illegally.

      Fitz, Marshall. “Time to Legalize Our 11 Million Undocumented Immigrants.” Center for American Progress, 14 Nov. 2012. Web. 12 June 2016.

      Stein, Daniel. “U.S. Taxpayers Should Not Have to Pay for Illegal Immigrants’ Healthcare.” US News and World Report, 10 Nov. 2009. Web. 12 June 2016.

  4. Matt S.

    The Necessity of Taking a Strong Stance on Illegal Immigration

    The debate on whether or not to grant illegal immigrants citizenship poses the even more complicated question of what it means to be apart of a democratic country. Defining what makes a country is too difficult for me to answer, but one major element is that the members all get to make decisions as a collective. Michael Walzer states “Admission and exclusion are at the core of communal independence. They suggest the deepest meaning of self-determination.” (Walzer). If there were no restrictions on who was granted citizenship to a country, the structure of everything that holds the country together would fall apart.

    I believe that all illegal immigrants should be considered for deportation, but not all illegal immigrants should be deported. If immigrants are seeking asylum, it is undeniable that we should provide them with safety. If there are less dire circumstances, such as immigrants seeking a higher paying job, they should be turned away. The alternative would be to allow all immigrants who would benefit from gaining citizenship to the country with higher paying jobs. There is a threshold of resources in any country, whether it is food, land or possibly government aid. If all immigrants were allowed citizenship those resources could quickly run out and the thing that attracted immigrants to a country in the first place could cease to exist. For example, in Arizona it was estimated that illegal immigrants cost taxpayers over one billion dollars for education, medical care and incarceration (Davis). Note that this sort of estimation is hard to calculate and is debated, but if you were to multiply the number of immigrants ten-fold it would be hard to imagine an economy not taking a major hit.

    I believe the only way to keep a major influx of illegal immigrants at bay is to enforce a strict deportation policy to anyone without citizenship. I presented the alternative of granting citizenship to anyone who would stand to improve their life, which I argued was unsustainable. A counter-argument to this could be a scenario in which citizenship is granted to a certain number of folks up until the threshold of resources is threatened. I think this is a sustainable compromise, and it’s basically what is done these days in the United States. In 2014, 654,949 immigrants were naturalized as citizens of the U.S. (Lee, Foreman). I believe this satisfies our duty to people of other nations who want to be apart of our nation. Also, this practice of letting a set number of people immigrate per year satisfies our duty to members of our own country, as far as keeping our association with one another strong.

    Davis, Bob. “The Thorny Economics of Illegal Immigration”. The Wall Street Journal. WSJ. 9 Feb 2016. Web. 9 Jun 2016.

    Lee, James and Foreman, Katie. “Naturalization Fact Sheet”. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Office of Immigration Statistics. 24 Oct 2012. Web. 9 Jun 2016.

    • Abigail D.

      Response to Matt S.

      The argument you make is sustainable, and not something to be dismissed lightly, but there are alternative perspectives worth looking at. If we were to follow Donald Trump’s plan of deportation, we would surely have some backlash from such actions. You do not directly argue for Trump’s mass immigration deportation plan, but following his guidelines loosely, it is worth taking a look at what deportation actual means for all the illegal immigrations in the United States. Trump has a plan to dismiss 11 million illegal immigrants, but at some major costs. His specifics are vague, but the deportation of 11 million people is obviously a tremendous task. “I can’t even begin to picture how we would deport 11 million people in a few years here we don’t have a police state, where the police can’t break down your door at will and take you away without a warrant,” Said Michael Chertoff, secretary of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush (Preston, Rapperport, Richtel, 2016). Finding immigrants would be a difficult task, and a costly one at that (2016).

      Providing asylum to immigrants is a respectable policy, but a political refugee is not the only type of immigrant that is suffering. Plenty of people come to the united states looking for a higher paying job, which you said is a result of deportation, but the higher paying job is for security, and for a livable life. The mass influx of immigrants into the United States is not purely off the basis of money alone, of living that golden lifestyle, but living a sustainable lifestyle for families or even a safer one. Many immigrants are trying to get away from the violence their country allows to run ramped (Tuckman, 2014). At what point do we turn these people away, at what point do we tell the young mother of 3 that her story is not sad enough for the United States to care? At what point can we look at another human and think, “that could have been me.” You and I were lucky to have grown up in a nation where violence is unacceptable and security is often granted, but what about those people who do not?

      This will always be a topic of complicated and different views and maybe there is no one right answer, but as a humanitarian I have to argue for Obama’s immigration policy. Children should not be help accountable for their parents action, and should not suffer because of such, they should not be deported back to a land that is no longer their home, but foreign territory. The criminals, the dangerous criminals should be the ones to pay the consequence of being an illegal immigrant ( McCarthy 2014).

      McCarthy, T. (2014, November 20). Obama announces actions on immigration: ‘What I’m describing is accountability’ – live. Retrieved June 12, 2016, from

      Preston, J., Rappeport, A., & Richtel, M. (2016, May 19). What Would It Take for Donald Trump to Deport 11 Million and Build a Wall? Retrieved June 12, 2016, from

      Tuckman, J. (2014, July 09). ‘Flee or die’: Violence drives Central America’s child migrants to US border. Retrieved June 12, 2016, from

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