Central American immigrants walk toward the border fence after crossing the Rio Grande from Mexico on February 1, 2019 in El Paso, Texas. John Moore/Getty Images.
As is all too clear from reading today’s headlines about Central Americans arriving at the southern American border, or Africans braving the Mediterranean in open boats, the immigration policies of America and the West are beset by a fundamental tension. It can be posed as a question: who is a migrant, and who qualifies as a refugee? The distinction between those two categories has become crucial to the functioning of America’s and most of the Western world’s immigration systems.