The public choice of public choice

by Henry Farrell on May 1, 2018

Years ago, I joked about coming up with “a simple public choice explanation for the emergence of public choice”. Now this: [click to continue…]


by Chris Bertram on May 1, 2018

In discussion of my recent post about the Windrush scandal, a couple of commenters used the phrase “illegal immigrants”. Tory ministers have since been on the airwaves using it a lot, and telling us that the public expects action on “illegal immigration”. Labour’s Diane Abbot has also been talking about the need to “bear down on illegal immigration” and the journalist Amelia Gentleman, who did so much to break the Windrush story, has protested that scandal of citizens denied their rights is nothing to do with “illegal immigration”.

But here’s why what they all say is wrong. There’s no such legal category as “illegal immigration”, rather there are people who have the legal right to be in the country and, perhaps, to do certain things like work or study. And then there are people who *may* lack the legal right to be present and to do those things. Some of the people with legal rights to be present have those rights because they are citizens; some other people have those rights for other reasons such as having a valid visa, being a refugee, or having some other human rights-based legal basis to stay.

Obviously, to “bear down” on people without the legal right to stay a government needs to (a) determine who they are and (b) take some action against them. Equally obviously, a government official may make a mistake about whether a person has the right to stay or they may use impermissible means against them. So you need a system by which people who have the right to stay but who the government wants gone can contest the bureaucratic decision against them as mistaken.
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