Private Contractors, Foreign Troops, and Offshore Detention Centers: The Ethics of Externalizing Immigration Controls

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APA Newsletter on Hispanic/Latino Issues in Philosophy

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2018


Despite the prevalence of externalization, much work in the ethics of immigration continues to assume that the admission of immigrants is determined by state immigration officials who decide whether to admit travelers at official crossings. This assumption neglects how decisions about entrance have been increasingly relocated abroad – to international waters, consular offices, airports, or foreign territories – often with non-governmental or private actors, as well as foreign governments functioning as intermediaries. Externalization poses a fundamental challenge to achieving just migration policies. It reliably harms vulnerable people, prevents refugees from receiving protection, leads to human rights abuses, and dissipates blame and accountability, creating a serious lacuna in assigning moral responsibility.


Copyright (2018) The American Philosophical Association.

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