Columnist

Cracking down on illegal immigration was never going to be pleasant, but this?

It’s worse than you think. The travesty of separating children from their undocumented, migrant parents was less about cracking down as a policy than about President Trump’s bet-winning. If Niccolo Machiavelli hadn’t been born, Trump would have hired someone to write “The Prince” — or his more likely title, “The King” — explaining why his merciless means justify the ends of his majestic self-ardor.

Reports from hell, which we’ve finally located at the U.S.-Mexico border, have confirmed that this president will do anything to get his way. We’ve seen the image of the 2-year-old crying while her mother is frisked by a Border Patrol agent. We’ve read of the father who, separated from his wife and 3-year-old last month, apparently killed himself while in custody.

When Marco Antonio Muñoz, 39, was taken into custody and away from his little boy, he basically went nuts. Wouldn’t you? Or, as a Border Patrol agent told The Post, “The guy lost his [expletive]. They had to use physical force to take the child out of his hands.”

Well, just great. Physically removing a toddler from his father’s arms would make this parent go insane. Owing to his belligerence and combativeness, Muñoz was taken to a more secure county jail 40 miles away, where one officer described him as having “the look of a guy at a bar who wanted to fight someone.” I’ll bet.

Alas, Muñoz was found dead the next morning, lying on the floor of his padded cell with a piece of clothing around his neck and blood puddled around his nose.

What, one wonders, would it take to convince Trump that he’s wrong? That this policy of separation must stop yesterday? The trauma suffered by many of the nearly 2,000 children being held in government detention centers — especially by the very young ones — is excruciating to consider. Indeed, ­two-thirds of Americans oppose Trump’s tactic of trying to force Democrats to essentially “pay for the wall.” Who knew there were so many Mexicans in the U.S. Congress?

Of course, you remember, Mexico was going to pay for it. In an essential use of profanity, former Mexican president ­Vicente Fox responded by confirming what many of us knew from the ­beginning: “We’ll never pay for that [expletive-ing] wall.”

Now, just a few months from the midterm elections, Trump wants that wall more than he once wanted Stormy Daniels’s phone number. He wants it so much, babies can cry and little boys can curl into fetal balls for all he cares. He wants it so badly that traumatizing children is acceptable to him.

This isn’t supposition, it’s data. To the rich boy from Queens, you gotta be tough to make it in this world. To the King of the Swamp, you can’t let those people run over you: Give them back their 3-year-old son, and next they’ll want a free Harvard education.

Trump’s political calculation wasn’t just way over the top, it was sick. And, yes, these tactics qualify as mental torture similar to forcing a POW to listen to the screams of a comrade as a means of extracting information or inducing submission. Rather than serve as a disincentive to other would-be migrants, “zero tolerance” has led to sympathy for the defiant.

The irony is also sick, but in a good way, as karma goes. Republicans have been in such a dither over illegal immigrants — lest they become Democrats — they’ve created a scenario in which virtually no one of Latino descent would now consider supporting a GOP candidate.

At whatever point Trump decides to join the human race and cancel his administration’s optional interpretation of zero tolerance, it will be — and is — too late.

Good morning, Democrats. Good night, GOP of Trump.

Notwithstanding the objections of a few Republicans — and lately more, given the political omens — it’s over. What’s obvious and belated is that most congressional Republicans were silent until their political futures seemed at risk. You have to wonder what it’s like to look in the mirror and see the face of someone who was essentially willing to condone the psychological torture of little children for political gain. Nauseating, I should think.

But Republican dissenters have learned that to confront their dear leader is to face expungement by the one-third of Americans who support Trump and who, coincidentally, also support separating children from their parents. Election Day will tell, and the outcome will reveal who we really are.

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