Department of Philosophy



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The Department of Philosophy Colloquium Series is pleased to present

Jointly sponsored with Political Studies and The Centre for the Study of Democracy and Diversity (CSDD)


Patti Lenard, University of Ottawa

The Ethics of Sanctuary in Democratic States

I argue that the vast majority of policies adopted under the banner of ‘sanctuary’ are justified in and of themselves.  The central objection that people offer to sanctuary policies is that they somehow serve to interfere with a state’s ability to control entry and exit of a territory, i.e., with a state’s sovereign right to control its borders.  Yet, as I argue, in the majority of cases, there is no clear case to be made that so-called ‘sanctuary’ policies impede, even if they do not aid, the ability of a state to engage in border control.  In order to make this case, I offer an account of the minimal criteria of immigration justice.  With this background in place, I argue that in cases where we are reasonably sure that an immigration system, and its corresponding enforcement mechanisms, meet the criteria of minimal justice as I have outlined them, it is morally required that actors who aim to achieve an even greater level of justice work within the system, and correspondingly, when these criteria are not met, working to subvert or undermine the system can be justified.  However, when it can be shown that sanctuary policies do impede the ability of a state to control its borders, especially in cases where the minimal criteria of immigration of justice are met, we have reason to judge them harshly.  

Thursday, February 8, 4:00 pm, Watson Hall 517  *please note this is the 2nd Colloquium of the week*


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