Underground railroads: citizen entitlements and unauthorized mobility in the antebellum period and today

Angel Cabrera

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In recent years, some scholars and prominent political figures have advocated the deepening of North American integration on roughly the European Union model, including the creation of new political institutions and the free movement of workers across borders. The construction of such a North American Union, if it included even a very thin trans-state citizenship regime, could represent the most significant expansion of individual entitlements in the region since citizenship was extended to former slaves in the United States. With such a possibility as its starting point, this article explores some striking parallels between the mass, legally prohibited movement across boundaries by fugitive slaves in the pre-Civil War period, and that by current unauthorized migrants to the United States. Both were, or are, met on their journeys by historically parallel groups of would-be helpers and hinderers. Their unauthorized movements in both periods serve as important signals of incomplete entitlements or institutional protections. Most crucially, moral arguments for extending fuller entitlements to both groups are shown here to be less distinct than may be prima facie evident, reinforcing the case for expanding and deepening the regional membership regime.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-238
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Global Ethics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2010


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