The Right to Belong and Immigration: A Feminist Pragmatist Analysis

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The “right to belong” is a human right in two ways. First, there is the right to belong in a limited sense, i.e., to the extent necessary for individuals to secure all other human rights, such as those recognized by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Second, there is a deeper aspect of the right to belong, that which is necessary to flourish as a human being. To establish, first, that the right to belong in a limited sense should be a human right, I draw upon Hannah Arendt’s claim that stateless persons are without rights, as only communities can grant them. I argue that this limited level of belonging is a necessary but insufficient condition for human flourishing. Full human flourishing requires belonging on a deeper level. To articulate the nature of this deeper level of belonging I draw on Simone Weil’s definition of the “need for roots” and John Dewey and Jane Addams’ constructions of the self as social. I then show how “belonging” in a deeper sense necessarily connects with how a person is perceived and received by individuals and institutions in a community and argue that full perception by and participation in a community is necessary for humans to flourish. Thus, the right to belong imposes an ethical obligation on other members of the community to perceive undocumented immigrants as full human persons with the potential to lead flourishing lives.



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