On Tuesday, one of those detention centers, near a military base in a suburb of Tripoli, was attacked in a rebel airstrike. At least 50 people were killed.
Those deaths may not be on Europe’s conscience, but they are, at least in part, a consequence of its policies. As Mathieu von Rohr wrote in a Spiegel editorial, “Today’s migration policies in the European Union are even more brutal than those pursued by Donald Trump.”
That observation leads to three reflections concerning the U.S.’s border crisis.
First, what’s happening may be an outrage, but it is considerably less outrageous than attempts by other magnet states to manage an unmanageable flow of migrants. That should temper talk of “concentration camps” and similar overblown rhetoric to describe an inundated system.
If a border patrol station like the one in McAllen, Tex., is a “concentration camp,” as some progressives would have it, what language is left for the Libyan detention facilities on which the E.U. relies for its border security?
Second, decriminalizing border entry, or extending access to health benefits for illegal immigrants, as some Democratic candidates suggest, would make the crisis dramatically worse. There were roughly 132,000 apprehensions at the southern border this May, more than nine times the figure of May 2017. A de facto open border of the sort that Europe briefly had in 2015 would send the numbers even higher, leading to a political backlash that would make the current Trumpist anti-immigrant fervor seem tame.
The ugliness of current European policy is an outgrowth of its lax policies four years ago. Nobody who cares for the interests of future immigrants should want the same thing.
Third, a purely punitive immigration policy of the sort envisioned by the Stephen Millers of the world will never work. In Central America, migrants are fleeing conditions that are worse than the worst this administration is capable of throwing at them. A wall the length of the border would not stop the pull-factor (most illegal immigrants arrive legally and overstay their visas). The only lasting answer is to address the push-factor.