Department of Philosophy, University of Nevada Las Vegas
— Undertaking an internal or international migration while pregnant, miscarrying, and/or raising a child often entails complex personal, political and moral challenges. For instance, for migrants, on a personal level, the physical and emotional stress associated with certain migration experiences may lead to negative pregnancy outcomes like miscarriage, low birth-weight, stillbirth and gestational diabetes. Politically speaking, birth-right citizenship, or the right to become a citizen of the country in which one was born regardless of the citizenship status of one’s parents, has been attacked relentlessly by anti-immigrant groups in places like the United States, Ireland, and New Zealand, leading to its controversial repeal in the latter two countries. Meanwhile, some of the most morally troubling instances of recent migrant abuse have involved the recent, ongoing separations of migrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Despite the obvious social and political importance of these questions of “maternity and migration,” there is not yet a distinguishable and robust philosophical literature that addresses them directly. There is, however, ample empirical literature and a small set of philosophical articles on this topic, and, additionally, a considerable amount of philosophical work that could be employed to consider the relevant questions from a normative point of a view. My aim in this essay is to provide a summary of this work with a view toward motivating new philosophical research in this important area. “Maternity and migration” is, I hope to show, a topic worthy of sustained philosophical attention, and many conceptual resources are, in fact, already available for doing this work. However, I shall suggest that this (philosophically) under-explored topic indicates a need for alternative approaches to mainstream immigration ethics.