Some people believe that a country only has obligations to its citizens and not to needy immigrants, asylum-seekers, or refugees. Any action done on behalf of refugees and migrants will be supererogatory on this view. We will call this view the exclusionary view:
Exclusionary View (EV): A country only has moral obligations to its citizens. Indigent asylum-seekers and refugees have no moral claim on the resources and privileges of any country but their own.
This view is best captured by John Bolton. “We have no obligation to bring them into this country,” John Bolton, former ambassador to the UN told Fox News’ Justice host Jeanine Pirro on November 16, 2015. He added that the U.S. can refuse to allow Syrian refugees entry “without in any way violating our humanitarian obligations.”
Other views include:
Chastened Exclusionary View (CEV): A country has limited obligations to indigent asylum-seekers and refugees only to the extent that we sacrifice anything of value or degrade our culture.
Acceptance View (AV): A country has a moral obligation to accept indigent refugees and asylum-seekers insofar as it doesn’t cause great harm to citizens of the host country.
Open Borders (OB): People have the moral right of free movement between jurisdictions and countries with limited or no restrictions on their movement.
I take the term indigent to mean a person who lacks the necessities of life. Necessities include food, water, clothing, shelter, hygiene and health, safety and security. Those who fall in this category may not have the means to acquire these necessities at a subsistence level.
Here is how the UN defines a refugee:
A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries.
And here is how the UN defines an asylum-seeker:
When people flee their own country and seek sanctuary in another country, they apply for asylum – the right to be recognized as a refugee and receive legal protection and material assistance. An asylum seeker must demonstrate that his or her fear of persecution in his or her home country is well-founded.
We have an obligation to make necessities available to indigent refugees and asylum-seekers. In paragraph 1911 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) it says:
Human interdependence is increasing and gradually spreading throughout the world. The unity of the human family, embracing people who enjoy equal natural dignity, implies a universal common good. This good calls for an organization of the community of nations able to “provide for the different needs of men; this will involve the sphere of social life to which belong questions of food, hygiene, education, . . . and certain situations arising here and there, as for example . . . alleviating the miseries of refugees dispersed throughout the world, and assisting migrants and their families.”
This paragraph is obviously incompatible with EV.
OB will require us to reevaluate our policy toward immigrate and refugees from top to bottom. OB will take us far beyond the scope of this series. This leaves us with CEV and AV.