Strangers in Our Midst
: The Political Philosophy of Immigration
(Harvard U Press 2016)
By David Miller
It is not unusual for people in countries with limited job opportunities and economic resources to want to seek a better life in different lands. This is especially so for those who come from countries where they are treated poorly, discriminated against, or worse. But moving from one country to another in large numbers creates serious problems for receiving countries as well as those sending them.
How should Western democracies respond to the many millions of people who want to settle in their societies? Economists and human rights advocates tend to downplay the considerable cultural and demographic impact of immigration on host societies. Seeking to balance the rights of immigrants with the legitimate concerns of citizens, Strangers in Our Midst brings a bracing dose of realism to this debate. David Miller defends the right of democratic states to control their borders and decide upon the future size, shape, and cultural make-up of their populations.
Reframing immigration as a question of political philosophy, he asks how democracy within a state can be reconciled with the rights of those outside its borders. A just immigration policy must distinguish refugees from economic migrants and determine the rights that immigrants in both categories acquire, once admitted. But being welcomed into a country as a prospective citizen does more than confer benefits: it imposes responsibilities. In Miller’s view, immigrants share with the state an obligation to integrate into their adopted societies, even if it means shedding some cultural baggage from their former home.