Zero Tolerance

Trump's Zero Tolerance Cruelty at the Border

In the name of punishing minor border violations, his administration has become lawless


Almost every president in the last 40 years has declared zero-tolerance for something or the other to advance his pet cause. For most people, this is a feel-good

Border families
David McNew Reuters via Newscom

slogan that doesn't mean much. That, however, is mistaken.

Zero tolerance is a uniquely horrible approach that has wreaked havoc wherever and whenever it's been deployed whether to fight drugs (Ronald Reagan), school violence (Bill Clinton), or, now, immigration (Donald Trump). (Colleges and companies too have ruined lives and upended livelihoods by taking a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment, racism etc.)

Its fundamental premise, I note in The Week, is that the cause these policies aim to advance is so righteous that authorities have impunity to go after minor offenses with maximal force. It hands those in position of power carte blanche to act lawlessly themselves to make everyone else live by the rules: Rule of law for ordinary mortals, but more power for them, the exact opposite of what is supposed to happen in a democratic republic.

Hence, toddlers who bring toy guns to schools—or non-violent drug offenders like Alice Johnson whose life-sentence Trump just commuted because Kim Kardashian was moved by her plight—get savagely prosecuted while the authorities make out like bandits through civil asset forfeiture laws.

So no one should be surprised that when the world's most powerful leader deploys these policies against the world's most powerless people—migrants—the results are deeply ugly as people fleeing violence and poverty are treated like Pablo Escobar, thrown in detention camps, their kids ripped from them.

Go here to read the whole thing.