The Instigator
Pro (for)
3 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

Immigration Ought To Be Recognized As A Human Right

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/10/2016 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 487 times Debate No: 90989
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
Votes (1)




This will be an LD style debate. First round is presenting case, and so on.

My dad was born in 1968 in Saigon, Vietnam during the war. Grandpa was a soldier fighting for the South in the Vietnam War, and was taken to a camp that was owned by the communists and was kept as a prisoner of war. In 1993, when my dad was 24 years old, his whole family received airplane tickets to America to escape the communist takeover in Vietnam.They chose to settle in California because he heard the weather was nice and there was a lot of job opportunities in San Jose.

Stories like Kelly"s represent the promise of immigration, which is why I affirm Resolved: Immigration ought to be recognized as a human right

But before I begin, I will offer some definitions to add clarity to this round.

Immigration is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as The action of coming to live permanently in a foreign country.

Ought is defined by Merriam Webster"s Dictionary as moral obligation or duty

And finally, Human Right is defined by the United Nations as rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status.

Since the resolution is a question of moral obligation, The Value Will Be Justice, defined by Aristotle as giving each their due. Philosopher John Rawls further states that Justice is composed of two core principles. Liberty, the basic rights and freedoms guaranteed to all people, such as dignity or security and Fairness, which Rawls outlines Fair Equality Of Opportunity, which holds that all have equal access to positions within society. Since fairness allows rights to be distributed evenly, the value of justice must be held to the highest importance

Although many ways exist in which one can consider justice, the most effective criterion must be The Veil of Ignorance, a test of morality in which, as Rawls states, No one knows their place in society; nor do they know their fortune in the distribution of natural assets" Justice demands that we be impartial for the reason that, as stated by Rawls "rational persons are concerned to advance their interests. If a [woman knew that s/he was wealthy, she might find it rational to advance the principle that taxes for welfare be counted unjust; if she knew that she were poor, he would propose the contrary principle. To represent desired restrictions, one imagines a situation in which everyone is deprived of this information." Since people are unsure of their social position, they will rationally select the option that would best provide justice regardless of their true state. This ensures that biases are neutralized, and that certain groups aren"t advantaged, ultimately upholding fairness, and liberty. Joseph H. Carens wrote that This is ideal for cases that look at transnational forms of justice. Cases like immigration and trade, where people interact across governmental boundaries, raise questions about whether the conditions of the interactions are fair. In thinking about these matters we don"t want to be biased by [outside]considerations, and we don"t want existing injustices (if any) to warp our reflections. Moreover, we can take it as a basic presupposition that we should treat all human beings, not just members of our society, as free and equal persons.

Observation: As indicated by the term ought, the resolution is not pragmatic in nature, but instead poses an ethical question; whether it is morally desirable to label immigration as a right. Hence, if immigration can meet the ethical standards of Rawls" justice, it is moral and therefore permissible

Contention 1: Immigration Upholds The Liberty Principle.
More often than not, people immigrate to new nations to escape some sort of hardship, whether that be war or oppression. Take The Troubles in Northern Ireland, a violent thirty-year conflict framed by civil rights and legal status of Northern Ireland. The scale of the killings perpetrated by all sides - republican and loyalist paramilitaries and the security forces - eventually exceeded 3,600. As many as 50,000 people were maimed or injured, with countless others psychologically damaged by the conflict, which is exactly why Rawls does acknowledge a "duty to assist burdened societies, in his Law of Peoples.Ghoshray elaborates, writing the United States is responsible, in a significant way, for allowing these regimes to thrive and survive politically. Take an example of Latin American nations like Nicaragua where, between the 1950s and the 1980s, the United States has been largely responsible for promoting either civil war, or supporting the regime for fear of spreading communism, giving scant respect to humanity. Hence, the responsibility and obligation lie to allow reasonable immigration to countries. Immanuel Kant called this a "universal right of hospitality", meaning If conditions in a person"s native country endanger his life and well-being, his right to survival, from an ethical point of view, carries as much weight as the new country"s claim to control borders (Benhabib).Carens elaborates, writing that In considering freedom, one adopts the perspective of the one who would be most disadvantaged, in this case the alien who wants to immigrate. In the original position, one would insist that the right to migrate be included in the system of basic liberties for the same reasons one would insist the right to religious freedom be included: it might prove essential to one"s plan of life. Under current conditions, when so many millions of poor and oppressed people feel they have so much to gain from migration to the advanced industrial states, it seems hard to believe that a utilitarian calculus which took the interests of aliens seriously would justify significantly greater limits on immigration than the ones entailed by the public order restriction implied by the Rawlsian approach. What we can take from this is that when migrants are oppressed at home, the veil of ignorance justifies immigration, being as it secures the liberty of the migrant.

Contention 2: Immigration Upholds Fair Equality of Opportunity.
Just as it ensures liberty, immigration also ensures that all people have fair equality of opportunity. Carens explains, Within democratic states we all recognise that access to social positions should be determined by an individual's actual talents and effort, and not on the basis of birth-related characteristics such as class, race, or gender that are not relevant to the capacity to perform well in the position. This ideal of equal opportunity is intimately linked to the view that all human beings are of equal moral worth, that there are no natural hierarchies of birth that entitle people to advantageous social positions. But you have to be able to move to where the opportunities are in order to take advantage of them, making the right to immigrate a prerequisite to Rawlsian justice. Looking back to the value premise, fair equality of opportunity holds that citizens with the same talents have the same educational and economic opportunities regardless of whether they were born in Britain or Uganda. By excluding immigrants, we condemn to poverty, poor education, limited political freedom, and often disease and/or violence many who would come to flourish. Equality of opportunity demands immigration. Carens adds," Every reason why one might want to move within a state may also be a reason for moving between states. One might want a job; one might belong to a religion that has few adherents in one"s native state and many in another; one might wish to pursue opportunities that are only available in another land. So, the basic agreement among those in the original position would be to permit immigration as it upholds both aspects of Rawlsian justice, making it worthy of the title 'right'.

"My Immigration Story." My Immigration Story. Web. 08 May 2016.

Rawls, John. " A Theory Of Justice (Revised Edition)." The Belknap Press of the Harvard
University Press (1971), p. 98-99 . July 01, 1971. Web. May 05, 2015
Benhabib, Seyla. "The Morality of Migration." Opinionator. The New York Times, 29 July 2012. Web. 08 May 2016. <;
"Day The Troubles Began." History. BBC News, 2015. Web. 8 May 2016. <;.


I thank you, Mr. Instigator for posting this debate as I am a child of an Immigrant family, so I understand your point completely. I don't entirely disagree with you on your point, and your deposition makes a lot of sense. However, there are a few flaws with that plan and this is why:

1. Yes, it may be true that people migrate here to America to escape the harsh conditions that come with receiving your rights, it is also true that some people escape their countries because they have committed a crime that could possibly get them killed.

Here is an example, Edward Snowden. Edward Snowden is wanted here in both America and Sweden for exposing government files, to the public. Edward did a crime that is a major offense to the government and can have him blacklisted everywhere. He can easily escape to any country and claim political asylum, and the country he committed the crime in, can no longer get to him. But what is left behind is the many people he affected and the acts committed. Now, I don't necessarily know if he hurt anyone personally like families or anything by exposing anything personal, but in the case where he might have, he hurt a lot of people. Unfortunately, for those families that he hurt, justice cannot prevail for them and their hope in basically all they got. If the home country could never get to him, justice will never prevail for those families and those families can be affected for the rest of their lives, possibly for generations and afterward if they can never get to his assets if he was to die and whenever he did.

2. It is a very risky idea to make that a human right.

As the first paragraph proved, it is already dangerous if the immigrant had committed a crime in his home country. Now imagine that happening here. Some immigrants, not all, illegally come here or they illegally smuggle illegal things into this country. Take, for example, that monster Trump's main idea about the wall. Part of the reason he wants the wall is so that undocumented immigrants, don't smuggle things across the border. Sometimes people smuggle drugs, weapons, and even humans for sex trading or money. Already here in America, that is a major problem for many immigrant women. On top of that, poses a risk for terrorists to enter the American borders, and terrorize the soil. ISIS is an example as they are presumed to have entered the American borders through Mexico.

3. It weakens the security of the country.

By stating that it should be a national right to immigrate to wherever you please by law, the country is allowing the structural integrity of the infrastructure of the country to weaken. That allows as aforementioned above that anyone can by right enter the border no matter what. That makes the country vulnerable, and open to attackers and terrorists. Not only that but that also enables immigrants to commit serious offenses that could not only jeopardize them, but also the public as a whole. If we tend to think about it in such a way, it is a possibility that could easily happen at any time whatsoever.

4. It creates another scenario of the Great Depression

Although in America, we have put up securities like Social Securities and Federal Banking Trust Funds and such, that does not ensure that the Great Depression cannot happen again. The Great Depression happened in the 1930s all the way into the early 1940s. That happened the same time around the influx of many immigrants had flooded into America. That weakened the economy greatly, as many had become either too poor or too rich to support yourself. It left many hungry and unable to support themselves, in poverty. It left families to work and toil for hours and hours on end, receiving little pay and receiving little food. Although World War 2 may never happen again, we did almost see something like that in 2008, in the Great Recession. The economy could not support the amount of people in the country. If we allowed people to randomly just migrate wherever they choose freely, we could see this as a worldwide problem.

There is not to say that there aren't any benefits like a boost in the economy, and of course the access to liberty, and better living conditions for them, but it does pose many risks as to how that may affect a country.

I, however, agree that people should be able to migrate, but I don't think that people should have that as a right. That could cause many problems.

I am sorry for the struggles that your ancestors may have gone through to get here to receive the freedoms and liberties that they did not get from their home countries, and I hope that no one of your family will have to go through that... And I thank your father for fighting for this country and I freely salute him as many other I hope will too.
Debate Round No. 1


First I'll address the arguments brought against my case, then I will refer to my opponent's.

1. Let's start with the Edward Snowden example. This is a unique situation since it could be said that Snowden was actually justified in his behaviors. The United States government was mandating massive surveillance programs that have resulted in the detainment of hundreds of innocent people as well as racial profiling. To add further insult to injury, the government did this in violation of the 4th Amendment, or protections from unreasonable search or seizure. Snowden exposed this injustice, which did not necessarily cause harm to anyone. Had he released launch codes it would be different. The point here is that his actions were justified, and he shouldn't have to run from America for exposing it's injustice. This is further confirmation that immigration should be a right

b) Snowden is also not an immigrant, he is an asylee. The argument is not topical.

2/3. Your argument's also do not take into account Rawls' theory of justice. Rawls stated that "liberty may restricted for the sake of liberty" meaning that because immigration is a human right does not mean it is unconditional. We forfeit rights every day in order to contribute to the liberty of others, immigration would be no different. So in essence, the threats of terror and loss of security may exist, but they harms are greatly reduced due to the conception of Rawls' justice.

4. Economic loss is also a fear mongering statement. The most recent academic research suggests that, on average, immigrants raise the overall standard of living of American workers by boosting wages and lowering prices. One reason is that immigrants and U.S.-born workers generally do not compete for the same jobs; instead many immigrants complement the work of U.S. employees and increase their productivity.

(Greenstone, Michael, and Adam Looney. "The Hamilton Project: Ten Economic Facts About Immigration." Brookings (20101): 1-16. Web. 5 May 2016. < greenstone looney/09_immigration.pdf>.)

Since the consequences are minimal and immigration benefits not only the immigrant but native citizens, immigration should be recognized as a right.


I recognise your point, however, I will do the same and address your argument then I will address mine:

1. The Edward Snowden is a very interesting point, that I agree with. I also agree with the fact that he was somewhat justified in his behaviours... However, we must call into question what constitutes a violation of a constitutional amendment. The fourth amendment reads:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

If we read it carefully, we can see many things particularly about searches and seizures. However, we don't see particularly in the context that it involves anything about the individual privacies of people. The 4th amendment simply says that the police has no right to search your house or your personal belongings without a probable cause. Do not misunderstand, I do enjoy my privacy, but we need to as a nation understand the words rather than the "justified" meanings.

On your point about "unreasonable searches or seizures" that however is a strong and valid argument; that I cannot oppose. But, for those of whom were illegitimately charged or penalised based on data collection, there is the 4th amendment that protects them as that proves that an officer accused someone of doing something that isn't possibly true. But, on data collection and technological surveillance, there are no constitutional rights that are being violated because there is no amendment protecting people from technology in any way. The use of technology to search and seize someone is not a constitutional violation.

Edward Snowden absolutely did have a very justifiable reason for revealing the many government records that he did. Of course, he did want to expose the government for the alleged wrongdoings that the nation very much accused the government of doing. And your point about him not wanting to harm anyone is definitely valid; that I cannot oppose at all. However, we must take into account all of the possibilities that can happen anyway. His intention may not have been to hurt anyone however, it still could have. The possibility that is could put anyone in jeopardy is always (when best to assume) is 50/50. We don't know what those records can contain and furthermore, we don't know if that has anyone's personal information that could put their lives in jeopardy. Not only that, but he put the records publicly which only increases the threat to those lives he may have jeopardised. Moreover, we don't know if criminals may be looking for those records to gather as much intel as they can, should it ever happen that something terrible will occur. International criminals and other governments like Korea could be spying on those records to see if they can gather information that could be detrimental to the civilians of this country. In my personal opinion, if he were to be charged here in the US if he were to come back and they capture him, I don't think he'd be detained primarily on the released records, he would also be detained on the fact that he could have destroyed the public peace and the homeland security.

I do understand that Snowden was a citizen of this country, however, that does not promote any difference for our criminal justice system's way of punishing someone for a crime.

2. On the use of Rawls' theory of justice, I want you to reflect the words of which is stated there and please understand the next few sentences of what you are about to read.

Liberty- freedom from arbitrary or despotic government or control.

If liberty is restricted for other's liberty, then your entire argument about Edward Snowden is invalid for multiple reasons:

a) Take into account the age of which we live in; cyber security and privacy...

If you say that liberty is restricted for liberty, then that proves true for this technological age... We ourselves give up our information, for the sake of protection. Take it from my perspective for a minute and understand that we give up our right to our privacy for the sake of our protection. In order for the government to keep us safe from terrorists, they must watch us under a controlled screen. In order to recognise terrorists, and the event where terrorism may occur they have to be there to recognise it. Because we are no longer in the age where technology is a futuristic idea, we have to see what people are doing for many reasons. Cyber attacks occur a lot more often than before. Now that technology is available all over the world, people now no longer have to travel in hiding physically by digging tunnels and driving long distances. They instead can now just log onto any computer and infiltrate an entire network and steal a lot of information, and do exactly that Edward Snowden did and release it to the public for millions to see so that criminals and cyber criminals can take it and use it for nearly just about anything these days. In another scenario, where a terrorist group decides to terrorise a country they no longer have to go to a suspicious place to plan, they can easily just sit at a computer or use a smartphone to communicate with each other at any time. That can endanger the lives of millions of people. Therefore, the government in order to protect its people must keep a level of security not only to secure the country but also it's citizens. Otherwise, anyone's information if not handled by the mobile carriers or OEMs can leave information open and vulnerable.

3. Yes, you make another good point about immigrants and how they improve the country and that I cannot oppose as even I made that in my argument before. However, that was not the basis of which my argument was coming from. My argument was proving the statement that a country's infrastructure may not be able to support the amount of people there or migrating. Take China's situation for example with the overcrowding. The country is definitely bigger than the US, however, there is just not enough space to hold all of those people. If we allowed people to freely migrate wherever they choose and they decide to all migrate to Asia or Europe or others may decide to migrate here, and they decide to stay permanently and more and more do the same, especially all in one place, that can cause the country to become crowded to the point where we will have to limit the amount of imports. Plus, if you are a New York City resident as I am, you are already starting to see that in our schools, our homes and in our city streets. And if you have more and more immigrants working there and they mostly work minimum wage jobs, that will cause the minimum wage to rise and taxes to rise as well, to support those who can't work or do not make a good living wage. Plus, it would increase inflation dramatically that could ruin the economy. Again, if you live here in NYC, you see it a lot and you would understand. It would be good for the economy and small businesses, but it can cause a lot of havoc in some ways.

You make good points in your argument and I understand absolutely. But the matter still lies that a lot of bad things can happen as well. And idontexist, in the comment section makes a very good point that supports and solidifies my argument, about the weakening of national security. Please go and check it out.
Debate Round No. 2


I'll address the attacks made against my case and then address yours.

Starting with the Snowden claim,
1. I never said the right to privacy was guaranteed by the 4th Amendment. Rather, I explained the what the amendment states in regards to search and seizure. Being as the NSA was collecting this data without a warrant, that is most definitely a violation of the Constitution.
2. This argument was also conceded. Vote Pro
3. The data collection is also highly unreliable, which I will address later.
4. Again, Snowden did not IMMIGRATE to Russia, he was granted asylum. These are totally different things, and are not synonymous.

Now, in regards to Rawls,
1. Cyber security has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not immigration should be a human right. Essentially, this is a red herring and is distracting from the real issues. The issues are that ARE digging tunnels under the borders or swimming across seas, and risking their lives to enter countries that would turn them away in any traditional sense. This is exactly why immigration needs to be recognized as a human right: since it would minimize these harms. This provides for equality of opportunity as well as liberty. Syrians are drowning in attempts to enter Europe. Clearly Bashar al Assad is not advocating for liberty, and as the democratic forefront of the world, the west needs to do so.

And infrastructure/wages,
1. Infrastructure is under pressure regardless of immigration. Using your example of China, we can see this. China has very little immigration, yet we still see these pressures.
2. I've already demonstrated that wages are actually better off with immigrants in round one. Immigrants are willing to do jobs that native citizens are not willing to do, so as a result we see economic benefit.

In spite of all of these claims, there is still a fundamental flaw with all of your arguments, namely in usage of 'ought'. As stated in the observation that was never addressed, we are not debating the practicality of immigration, rather the ethics and morality of it. Therefore, unless you can cite some moral theory that is contingent upon economics that outweighs the Rawlsian notions of duty, the pro has won this debate.


dj123w1 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by idontexist 5 months ago
I'd like to make a few comments:
- Something being recognized as Human Right seem to imply that it is virtually unconditional
- I do not think that "immigration" should be unconditional, because I think the destination should have the right to decide whether to accept immigrants. (Refugee is a different matter, as it implies an urgency.)
- I think "emigration", on the other hand, should be almost unconditional (exceptions are things like people under investigations for crimes.)
- Human Right - I think it is dangerous to recognize immigration/emigration as human rights, because then authorities will not be able to legally arrest criminals, because it is their "human right" to move out of the country.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by MagicAintReal 5 months ago
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: RFD here: Also, I will clarify any points if asked.