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As a drug crisis has moved Kensington to the center of a debate on how best to treat addiction, we’ve largely failed to see the connection to the crisis taking place on America’s southern border.

Right now in the heart of Kensington, a throng of homeless heroin addicts is gathered beneath a bridge on Emerald Street, where nearby drug dealers linger and a community helplessly watches. Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, America’s southern border is embroiled in a battle pitting homeless migrants against border guards with guns and tear gas.

The two problems seem worlds apart, but they are intricately connected. That’s because much of the heroin and fentanyl that is killing addicts in Philadelphia comes in through America’s borders. Yet America’s political focus is on stopping the influx of brown immigrants rather than stopping the flow of drugs. Our social focus is on enabling addicts to continue using rather than helping them to end their drug dependence.

In short, our priorities are dangerously misplaced, and in the end it could cost us dearly.

In order to understand just how hopelessly intertwined our drug crisis and our border issues are, one must first understand that neither problem happened overnight. They are both grounded in the historical morass of race and class in America, and, because they took years to emerge from the ashes of our troubled past, neither problem will go away overnight.

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