Application of Finnis and Hoose to Immigration


Immigration refers to people moving into a country from another country. To apply Finnis and Hoose to immigration, we need to identify ethical issues raised by immigration, learn some case studies, and know how each theory would respond.

Economic migrants

Some people move into the UK to work, as there are more and better opportunities in the UK than in their own country. Their first language may not be English, and they may be financially poor. This makes economic immigrants vulnerable to exploitation.

For example, an article in the Guardian talks about refugee workers in a chicken factory putting in long hours; debt-bonded South African migrants living in squalor packing pears for Tesco; Portuguese migrants paid less than the minimum wage in Norfolk.

Finnis would support workers' rights, in particular that they should have the basic goods of life, knowledge, friendship, play, aesthetic experience etc. If immigrants are being forced to work long hours, there is no time for play. Radio 4 interviewed a woman from the Philippines working as a maid who was never allowed to socialise and have friends.

Evaluating Finnis' response, we can see that a deontological approach protects vulnerable migrant workers who would otherwise be prone to exploitation.

Some may criticise this approach as being impractical. Hoose's Proportionalism, for example, would say that laws requiring immigrants to be paid a minimum wage might lead to employers using illegal immigrants if they can't afford to pay the minimum wage. When people are employed illegally, they don't have the protection of the law in terms of working conditions. A Proportionalist could agree with the general principle of a minimum wage, but say that the specific situation of immigrant workers should be treated differently, and that minimum wages should not apply to those who have recently moved to the UK. This could have prevented disasters like the 2004 Morecombe Bay tragedy, where 21 illegal Chinese cockle-pickers were drowned by an incoming tide.

You may conclude that Finnis' Natural Law has a degree of flexibility, as it includes practical reasonableness, and suggests not to become obsessed with a particular project. As such, he protects the principle that basic goods apply to all people, without being absolutist regarding the details of pay and working conditions.


Write out each of the basic goods, and link it to one issue raised by immigration. Try and do the same with the nine requirements of practical reason. In each case, add an evaluative statement that shows whether Finnis' theory gives the right answer on immigration.


Look at the case studies of immigration. For each case study, consider whether it would have been improved by an absolute moral rule. To apply Hoose, you need to know cases where there were proportionate reasons to break the rules.