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Donia Human Rights Center Discussion. Should There Be A Human Right To Cross Borders In Search Of A Better Life?

Tom Farer, University Professor and Dean Emeritus (1996-2010), Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver; Ann Chih Lin, Associate Professor, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan
Thursday, November 12, 2020
4:15-5:30 PM
Off Campus Location
Please note: This event will be held virtually EST through Zoom. This webinar is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Once you've registered the joining information will be sent to your email.

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In his recently-published book, “Migration and Integration; The Case for Liberalism with Borders,” Professor Farer argues that any legal argument for a general right to enter is flimsy. But, he goes on to propose, by invoking two of the deep values on which treaty-based human rights rest, you can make a strong moral case for recognizing a human right to cross international borders in search of a better life (not merely to escape persecution). But the case is not conclusive because it is possible to invoke human rights norms to support the claim that a democratic electorate has the moral authority to decide who may enter the country and on what terms. How should people who imagine themselves as liberal resolve these competing claims? In Farer’s hierarchy of liberal values, the preservation of liberal democratic governments ranks at the top. Today the walls of liberal government are being breached by right-wing demagogues who have weaponized the migration issue. Farer’s premise is that liberals need to defend the walls by taking possession of the issue. They can do so only by conceding the electorate’s right to decide who and how many may enter and by demonstrating the will to enforce the electorate’s decisions. However, once they have demonstrated their rejection of open borders, they can appeal on moral as well as on the grounds of societal self-interest for a generous admissions policy and do so with the promise of electoral success.

Tom Farer, University Professor at the University of Denver, was dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies for 14 years, 1996-2010. He has served as President of the University of New Mexico, President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a principal organ of the OAS, and President of the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs.

He has been a senior fellow of the Carnegie Endowment, the Council on Foreign Relations (of which he is now a member) and the Smithsonian’s Wilson Center for International Scholars. He is on the editorial boards of the American Journal of International Law and the Human Rights Quarterly. He has consulted for Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. In the US Government he served as special assistant to the General Counsel of the Department of Defense and later as special assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs. When Somalia still had a state, he served as assistant to the commanding general of the Somali National Police Force and taught both criminal law and karate to members of the force. In 1993 he served as legal advisor to the UN Peace Enforcement operation in Somalia and in 1994 served as an external reviewer of Uganda’s draft constitution.

He has published a dozen books and monographs and over 150 book chapters and articles which have appeared in journals including Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books, Newsweek, and the Harvard and Columbia Law Reviews. His penultimate book is "Confronting Global Terrorism and American Neo-Conservatism:The Framework of a Liberal Grand Strategy." He has just completed a book titled “Migration and Integration: The Case for Liberalism with Borders” which Cambridge University Press will publish in January 2020.

He is a graduate of Princeton and the Harvard Law School, both Magna cum Laude. At Harvard he was Notes Editor of the Law Review. He has taught law at Columbia, Rutgers, Tulane, Harvard and American University and foreign policy at Johns Hopkins School of International Studies, Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School, American University’s School of International Service and Cambridge University. He has been an Honorary Professor at Peking University and has an honorary doctorate from Panteion University in Athens, Greece.


Ann Chih Lin is Associate Professor at the University of Michigan Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. Dr. Lin studies immigrant political socialization -- how immigrants learn about and relate to government authority in their new country – and immigration policy – how governments choose to recruit migrants. She was co-principal investigator on the Detroit Arab American Study, a landmark public opinion survey of Arab Americans in Detroit, and a co-author of a book on the study, Citizenship in Crisis: Arab Detroit after 9/11. With Yan Chen and Kentaro Toyama, she is exploring methods to reduce bias against Muslims in two metro Detroit cities. She is also part of a multi-investigator, multi-national study on the COVID-19 pandemic: "People and Pandemics: Studying International Coping and Compliance." Dr. Lin received her Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago.

If there is anything we can do to make this event accessible to you, please contact us at Please be aware that advance notice is necessary as some accommodations may require more time for the university to arrange.
Building: Off Campus Location
Location: Virtual
Event Type: Livestream / Virtual
Tags: Global, Human Rights, Immigration, International, International Affairs, International Law, International Studies, Migration
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Donia Human Rights Center, International Institute