Nature’s temporary solution to the crisis on the United States’ southwest border is upon us, in the form of high summer temperatures that should reduce the migration rate and relieve some of the pressure on our overcrowded camps and courts. So it’s a good time to step back and assess the disastrous cycle in which our immigration policy has been caught.

The cycle started with a gap between the elite consensus on immigration — unabashedly in favor — and the public’s more conflicted attitudes, which differ depending on the day’s headlines and the wording of the polling questions. Across the first 15 years of the 21st century, too many Beltway attempts to simply impose the elite consensus set the stage for backlash, populism, Trump.

Unfortunately that backlash did not just give us a more restrictionist president. It gave us a restrictionist president who mixes ineffectiveness in legislating, incompetence in administration, and an impulse toward “toughness” as the response to every challenge — one that easily becomes a license for cruelty when a crisis hits. As it has, in the form of the wave of family migration — to which the Trumpian response has been, first, the formal inhumanity of the child separation policy, and since then, the informal inhumanity of an overwhelmed detainment system.

This inhumanity, in turn, has driven many liberals — led by the Democratic Party’s would-be nominees for president — to repudiate not only the specific evils of Trump’s approach, but the entire architecture of immigration enforcement as implemented by, well, the last Democratic president. The camps for asylum-seekers must not just be made more humane; they must be closed. Deportations of noncriminal aliens must not only be limited; they must be ended. As migration rates increase exponentially, the government must respond by ... decriminalizing illegal entry and extending public benefits to undocumented immigrants.

These policies are far more reckless than the old path-to-citizenship, more-guest-workers elite consensus, because they learn exactly the wrong lessons from the last five years of turbulence. We now have multiple case studies, European and American, of how in a globalized and internet-connected world migration can suddenly cascade, how easily a perceived open door can lead to a dramatic rush to enter — and then how quickly the most generous societies can find themselves retreating to enforcement and lurching toward populism.

For this cycle to break, for immigration policy to stabilize instead of whipsawing between folly and cruelty, you would need fraternal correction to happen within both the right-wing and left-wing coalitions.

On the American right, that correction ought to come from religious conservatives and their representatives, who have generally been far too blasé about the conditions in the migrant camps and the Trump administration’s moral responsibility to migrants.

Yes, these conditions reflect funding shortfalls in which Democrats as well as Trump are complicit; yes, some of the problems were also problems under Obama, and liberal partisans are only just now noticing; yes, reckless adult migrants are often responsible for putting children in peril in the first place.

But none of this absolves the United States of a basic responsibility to keep vulnerable people, children above all, in the most humane conditions possible when their detention is required. The harsh reality of border enforcement tends to breed callousness and prejudice, of the sort that pervades a recently exposed Border Patrol Facebook group, unless someone in authority is pushing back hard against that tendency. And it’s plain that Trump’s team doesn’t regard that kind of pushback as a moral obligation, that they are either invested in the idea that cruelty might be a useful deterrent or indifferent to the conditions that visitors to the camps keep uncovering.

This is where the president’s religious supporters should be intervening, should be applying moral pressure, should be working to prove that the immigration restrictions they support can be implemented in accord with basic Christian principles. At the moment their efforts are meager, and that proof does not exist.

Then on the Democratic side, the obligation to halt the march of folly falls upon the party’s moderates, its House and Senate leaders — who behaved responsibly last week in passing the border funding bill over Ocasio-Cortezan objections — and finally on the would-be moderate trying to win the party’s nomination, Joe Biden.

Of all the questions that his leftward critics want to relitigate on the debate stage, this might be the most immediately important: Were Barack Obama’s deportation policies (which at their peak removed more people than Trump’s) immoral and un-American, a compromise with fascism that liberalism must now repudiate and permanently leave behind?

Biden has an obvious incentive to answer no, to defend as pro-immigration realism the last administration’s efforts to legalize longtime residents while also resisting migration waves.

But it’s how the party’s voters answer, and what the next Democratic president does, that will determine how fast the cycle of polarization continues turning, how wide our immigration gyre becomes.

———

Russ Douthat is a columnist for the New York Times.

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(2) comments

Kelli Jobson

(Democrat 2020 Platform & Goals) -Open Borders. -Sanctuary Cities. -Decriminalize illegal entry into our country. -Defund & terminate Border Patrol & ICE. -Same sex marriages. -Disarming Americans. -Infanticide. -Voting rights for illegal aliens. -Pack the courts with radical liberal judges (Like the 9th circuit) -Increase refugee's from the third world. -Illegal aliens allowed to hold public office. -Socialism. -Free Abortions for all (Taxpayer funded) -The green new deal. -End of Electoral College -Free Medicare care for all including non citizens (taxpayer funded) -Raise Minimum Wage (expect massive reduction in full time jobs & loss of health benefits) -Have adolescents vote. -!00% free college for all, including non citizens. (tax payer funded) -Reparations for every race "harmed" by the white man. -Convicts, Terrorists voting. -Susie & Bobby using the same restrooms. -Late term abortions up to 9 months.. -Pay check for every person in the US even if they choose not to work. (Sources: Straight from the Democrat's mouths. View their speeches on you tube.)

rg CLEMETE

Funny writers like this never seem to write about the THOUSANDS of American citizens victimized by illegal aliens. Democrat/liberals who view Americans as acceptable collateral damage to allowing millions enter the country. The current migration at our border is costing taxpayers a Kings ransom ($17,000 per day ABC news.) Fleeing persecution? or fleeing for freebies? they sure don't stay in Mexico when they reach "safety" or ask or offered political asylum in Mexico. Why? because Mexico will give them NOTHING. So they make the long journey to our border, our generous Democrats, and our tax dollars. We have Democrat / Socialist / Activists in the Northern Triangle of South America & Mexico; even as you read this instructing the populations to make sure you bring your children and use the the magic words....."credible fear." Mexico recently arrested two socialist activists who were instrumental in the organizing of prior caravans, Then you have a Democrat House saying the crisis is "manufactured" as literally thousands attack our border daily? The crisis IS manufactured...by the Democrats themselves. Make no mistake about this, Democrats want this to happen and never stop. They will with hold border security support allowing as many illegal aliens to enter the country as possible overwhelming our BP & ICE before assisting in border security (if ever.) To Democrats/Socialists programs like Temporary Protective Status (TPS) or Deferred Action for Childhood arrivals (DACA) are permanent programs. There is nothing "temporary or deferred" about these programs to Democrats. These programs are designed to admit refugees (usually from the third world) then Democrats fight to keep them here permanently using the charge of racism, religion, guilt, against anyone opposed. Simple formula works great.

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