Our Disgrace at the Border

Suppose one night there is a knock on your door. You open it to find 100 bedraggled families shivering in your yard — exhausted, filthy, terrified. The first cry of your heart would be to take them in, but you’d know there were too many.

But you’d still do something. You’d rally your neighbors and the local authorities and put some system in place — some way to provide immediate care, figure out who these people were and how, within your means, you could lift them up.

And this is precisely what the U.S. has failed to do in handling the refugees who are flooding across the southern border. There is nothing remotely like an adequate system in place to handle the hundreds of thousands of people fleeing violence in Central America or seeking economic opportunity. And there is no prospect of a plan being put in place from either Republicans or Democrats.

And in that way the border crisis is paradigmatic of our politics right now. Both parties are content to adopt abstract ideological postures. Neither is interested in creating a functioning system that balances trade-offs and actually works. In the age of Trump, national politics is showbiz — self-righteous performance art to make the base feel good about itself.

The Trump show is all about toughness and cruelty. The administration adopted a zero-tolerance policy that was supposed to deter potential immigrants. It failed miserably. Roughly 103,000 unauthorized immigrants reached the U.S.-Mexico border in March, twice as many as in March 2018.

By David Brooks for THE NEW YORK TIMES

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