Towards a Legal Turn in the Ethics of Immigration


  • Johan Rochel University of Zürich, Switzerland



Ethics of Immigration, Legal Turn, Law and Ethics, Principle of Proportionality


This contribution presents the case for a ‘legal turn’ in the ethical debate on immigration. The legal turn is an invitation directed mainly at philosophers to take law as a normative practice seriously, to draw upon the normative resources which it entails and to look for cooperation opportunities with legal scholars. In the continuation of the debates on the ethics of immigration, this legal turn represents an important opportunity for philosophy to gain more relevance in the legal and political realms by affirming its capacity to inspire and guide concrete legal evolutions. This piece proposes both a methodological argument on how to make room for the contributions made by ethical theory within a legal argument and an exemplification of this innovative approach as a way to uncover new research fields for both immigration law and ethics. This legal turn represents a promising development of the consistency-based approach used widely by philosophers arguing from the point of view of liberal and democratic values and highlighting inconsistency in immigration policy. The legal turn pleads for a new locus for ethical investigation (namely immigration law) and proposes a methodology labelled as a ‘normative reflexive dialogue’. The potential of this dialogue will be exemplified through the principle of proportionality, a decisive principle for migration law and ethics.


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How to Cite

Rochel, J. (2017) “Towards a Legal Turn in the Ethics of Immigration”, De Ethica, 4(1), pp. 31–55. doi: 10.3384/de-ethica.2001-8819.174131.