Does the left want even humane border enforcement?

Writing in The Atlantic a year ago, my colleague Peter Beinart remarked on the increasingly unanimous opposition among Democrats to any form of immigration enforcement at all. “An undocumented alien is not a criminal,” Senator Kamala Harris protested last year. That view has been turbocharged over the past week…

Now notice something: As Hayes elaborates his horror at the separation of mother from child, he seems to arrive at a conclusion that there is something inherently oppressive about any kind of immigration rule at all. The “men in suits or men in uniform” he speaks of do not just “show up.” The border crosser goes to them. She is not just “living her life … and then all of a sudden, the state can come in and wrench your life apart.” She, of her own volition, traveled hundreds of miles to challenge the authority of a foreign state to police its frontiers. When her challenge failed—when she was apprehended and detained—what happened next must have felt harsh and frightening. But dictatorial? Totalitarian? In democracies, too, the wrong side of the law is an inescapably uncomfortable place to find yourself.

Trump and his brutish methods are radicalizing his opponents. But those opponents still retain the choice not to be radicalized. The spreading view that immigration is a civil right and that immigration enforcement is totalitarian is an attack on democratic legality. It subordinates rules and norms to desires and passions. It is also a corrosion of the ideal of a constitutional state. Social-media outrage is manipulative and dangerous even when it appeals to generous sentiments. The generous sentiment quickly becomes a foundation for yet more of the division and anger ripping apart this American community.