Yes, They’re “Concentration Camps”

Detention centers don’t have to be Auschwitz or Dachau to be labeled “concentration camps.” (Photo Credit: U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

When asked about her colleague Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s use of the term “concentration camps” in reference to detention centers near our southern border, Rep. Ilhan Omar had this to say about the ensuing controversy: “There are camps, and people are being concentrated. This is very simple. I don’t know why this is a controversial thing to say.”

Right-wing media and organizations skewed toward the interests of American Jews quickly lambasted Omar for the perceived insensitivity of her comments as well as lamented her supposed continued use of anti-Semitic imagery. Here’s the problem, though: both she and Ocasio-Cortez are right.

First things first, and sorry to be that guy who cites the dictionary in making a point but here we are, let’s define the phrase. According to Oxford Dictionaries, a “concentration camp” is:

A place where large numbers of people, especially political prisoners or members of persecuted minorities, are deliberately imprisoned in a relatively small area with inadequate facilities, sometimes to provide forced labor or to await mass execution. The term is most strongly associated with the several hundred camps established by the Nazis in Germany and occupied Europe in 1933–45, among the most infamous being Dachau, Belsen, and Auschwitz.

Hmm. “Large numbers of people,” “persecuted minorities,” “deliberately imprisoned in a relatively small area with inadequate facilities.” These qualifiers all seem applicable to the detention centers and other facilities housing families detained at the border and elsewhere in the United States. According to the Department of Homeland Security, close to 45,000 detainees were being held daily on average in the United States as of 2018. What’s more, this figure has risen considerably from the less-than-7,000 detainees daily observed back in 1994 and comes as part of an upward spike concordant with Donald Trump’s political rise. Simply put, these numbers are no accident.

On the persecuted minorities front, um, have you heard the president speak about the Hispanic/Latinx community? As it stands to reason geographically, most of the people in detention in the U.S. are from Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. Would conditions in facilities holding immigrants/asylum-seekers be nearly as poor (more on this in a moment) if these people were coming from, say, Norway? Of course not. As evidenced by his defensiveness any time he is challenged by a person of color—especially if that person is a woman—Donald Trump projects his hatred toward members of minority groups and immigrants on the beliefs of all Americans.

Granted, he’s not alone in his racism, xenophobia, and other forms of bigotry; he got elected after all. Still, he’s not speaking for all Americans when he spews his nativist rhetoric buttressed by false or misleading claims and statistics. Like their sheer number as a function of rising trends in immigrant detention, the country of origin of these detainees is highly relevant. Moreover, their demonization obscures the ways in which the U.S. has helped fuel surges in migrants crossing our southern border. In other words, not only do Trump et al.‘s arguments distort the present, but they fail to retrospectively appreciate America’s role in creating the conditions which have led to increases in the number of asylum-seekers from Mexico and Central America. This, too, is no mistake.

And regarding the “relatively small area with inadequate facilities” bit? Yes, this and then some. The story of these detention camps and even for-profit centers and prisons has been one of abject cruelty shown toward detainees. Facilities have been overcrowded well beyond stated capacity. Staffing is frequently insufficient with little guarantee employees are experienced enough or trained well enough to handle their appointed tasks. Adequate health care is often severely lacking if not completely absent, as is supervision of child detainees by adults. Even the availability of blankets, soap, and toothbrushes is of issue. These standards of operation fall below even the auspices afforded to prisoners of war per the Geneva Conventions, and Justice Department immigration attorney Sarah Fabian (among others) should be ashamed of arguing to the contrary.

On these three counts, the detention and separation of families at the border would easily seem to meet the definition spelled out above. Obviously, we’re not to the point of forced labor or awaiting mass execution. This is not Nazi Germany and Donald Trump is not Adolf Hitler. If these are the main distinctions we’re making, however, pardon me for believing we might be missing the forest for the proverbial trees. We should never forget the horrors of the Holocaust nor should we diminish the danger anti-Semitism represents in today’s world. The experience of Jews here and abroad is a unique one and this merits respect.

At the same time, we can recognize that the use of the term “concentration camp,” historically loaded as it may be, is not one made in a flippant manner. As discussed, the conditions of these detention centers would appear to meet the basic requirements delineated by the dictionary definition. Additionally, there is the matter of how urgent the situation is at our southern border. We are in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. Quibbling over semantics risks losing sight of the magnitude of the atrocities being inflicted on people whose only “sin” is crossing the border, in so many cases running from a dangerous situation in their country of origin. It also invites people like Liz Cheney to use Jews purely as political capital, leveraging their suffering amid disingenuous partisan attacks on Democrats.

This is why many refer to border security as a “wedge” issue. Allowing division based on bad-faith discourse is falling prey to the designs of Trump apologists and others itching at the chance to divide and conquer Democrats. We should expect attacks against Ocasio-Cortez and Omar from those on the right who frame the first-year members of Congress as a threat and whose fear (but not fearmongering, to be clear) is welcomed because it exposes the ugliness of their prejudiced antipathy. On the other hand, when those of us on the left and the center-left are effectively providing cover for an administration pursuing a white supremacist agenda and employing genocidal tactics to this end, we should really take stock of our priorities.


In elaborating her position on immigrant detention centers as “concentration camps,” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pointed to the opinions of “experts” on the subject. In particular, AOC cited an article for Esquire by Jack Holmes which name-checks journalist Andrea Pitzer, who quite literally wrote the book on concentration camps.

According to Pitzer, the “mass detention of civilians without trial” is good enough for her to satisfy the requirements of a “concentration camp system.” This applies to camps in Nazi Germany, sure, but also Cuba, France, South Africa, the Soviet Union, and in the creation of “internment camps” to hold people of Japanese descent, the United States. Holmes, in speaking to historian Waitman Wade Beorn, whose basis is in Holocaust and genocide studies, also notes how the term is used by historians in a broader sense. According to Beorn, not every concentration camp has to be a death camp. Frequently, the purpose of such a camp is achieved simply by separating one group from another.

At the crux of these camps’ existence are the militarization of the border and the dehumanization of the asylum/immigration enforcement process. For the Trump administration, the large-scale indefinite detention of civilians is the culmination of an intentional effort to depict a spike in border crossings as a “national emergency” and to label asylum-seekers/immigrants as subhuman. It’s an “invasion.” They’re “animals.” Not to beat the dead horse of lore or anything, but this is specific, targeted language. It’s not unintentional, or for that matter, normal.

What’s worse, the longer these facilities operate, the worse the conditions get and the easier it becomes to distance ourselves from the detainees because they are “sick” or because they are “criminals.” This is not purely theoretical, either. Circumstances have worsened. Children and adults alike have died as a result of confinement. And this is exactly what this administration has intended: to make things so bad that families wouldn’t want to come here. As Beorn underscores, it’s not a prison or a holding area or waiting area—it’s a policy. It occurs, no less, at the expense of people who haven’t been, in many cases, charged with a crime. In some instances, even U.S. citizens are being apprehended and detained for days at a time. Those documented occurrences, while perhaps more shocking or unnerving, are rare. For now.

If all this weren’t bad enough, that these facilities are so remote and that they exist in what Beorn describes as a “sort of extralegal, extrajudicial, somewhat-invisible no-man’s land” makes it that much more unlikely these camps will be closed or that visible protests with the ability to meaningfully sway public opinion can be organized on the premises. Holmes points to the prison at Guantanamo Bay as an example in this regard. President Barack Obama repeatedly vowed to close Gitmo, but it “had been ingrained in the various institutions and branches of American constitutional government.”

In the nebulous space where human rights abuses and constitutional protections get overlooked in the name of “national security,” the justifications for these camps staying open can grow more numerous and vague. The names may have changed—George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, meet Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, and Stephen Miller—and so too have the targets of the repression (though with fears of war with Iran ever present, who knows), but the story is very much the same.

Holmes’s piece ends on this sobering note:

In most cases, these camps are not closed by the executive or the judiciary or even the legislature. It usually requires external intervention. (See: D-Day) That obviously will not be an option when it comes to the most powerful country in the history of the world, a country which, while it would never call them that, and would be loathe to admit it, is now running a system at the southern border that is rapidly coming to resemble the concentration camps that have sprung up all over the world in the last century. Every system is different. They don’t always end in death machines. But they never end well.

“Let’s say there’s 20 hurdles that we have to get over before we get to someplace really, really, really bad,” Pitzer says. “I think we’ve knocked 10 of them down.”

We’re already in the midst of a humanitarian crisis and it stands to get worse. Make no mistake: these concentration camps—yes, concentration camps—are a stain on the fabric of America’s moral character, a fabric of which the resiliency is continually being tested under President Trump and which already reveals its share of black marks and tears over its history despite this nation’s overall promise.

We should all own this sad chapter in the saga of our proud nation. And above all others, though his self-absorption and cultivated public image won’t allow acknowledgment on his part, Trump should be tied to the cruel escalation of Clinton-era and Obama-era border policies behind the mass detention of asylum-seekers and immigrants. For a man who loves slapping his name on things, including other people’s successes, his legacy as president should forever be linked with this disgrace.

You Can’t Debate Cruelty and Hate

Tucker Carlson is a white supremacist masquerading as a legitimate journalist, and boycotts of his show are well within the bounds of what should be deemed as appropriate. (Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Why does [INSERT NAME OF CABLE NEWS OUTLET] insist on giving air time to [INSERT NAME OF OFFICIAL]?

The above is a refrain I’ve seen countless times on social media in relation to the appearance of some political figure on a show like Meet the Press or Anderson Cooper 360°. Usually, the official is Kellyanne Conway or someone else for whom the commentator has little regard in the way of truth-telling or giving a straight answer. Deflect, pivot, or lie outright. I’m sure you can think of a few such examples.

In an era in which consolidation among media outlets or talk thereof is all but constant, and in which the desire for media output is such that traditional purveyors of the news must find new ways of competing with alternative sources, there seemingly has never been a greater need for scrutiny of the media’s stewardship of the day’s breaking stories. Who will watch the watchers?

An unfortunate byproduct of this state of affairs is the effort to appeal to “both sides” on a given topic. As it is with other forms of reporting (e.g. sports pregame shows), this lends itself to rather bloated collections of panelists. On-screen discussions begin to look less like conversations and more like the opening theme to The Brady Bunch. This is problematic for no other reason that, in a political climate already predisposed to name-calling and shouting matches, there is all kinds of cross-talk and people unable to get a word in edgewise. If at first you don’t succeed, just yell louder or cut off others while they’re speaking.

More importantly, though, the desire of news outlets to appear free of bias creates situations in which “experts” with diametrically opposed views “debate” matters in such a way that the dialog is less substantive discourse on relevant issues and more a manner of ceding a platform to individuals with objectionable policy stances based on false statistics and misleading narratives.

Journalist/columnist Lauren Duca recently penned an opinion piece about how defending oneself as presenting “both sides” doesn’t (or shouldn’t) apply when someone is a vehicle for hate speech. Duca, in particular, references Tucker Carlson—with whom Duca memorably debated back in December 2016 on his show, calling him a “partisan hack”—amid expressing her viewpoints, labeling him a “full caricature of white supremacy.”

Duca’s Exhibit A in a long list of evidence in her charge against Carlson is a recent segment on his show when he denigrated Central American migrants and those who support their lawful entry into the United States, averring that letting them in “makes our own country poorer and dirtier and more divided.” So much for those tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free, eh, Tucker? In response, Tucker Carlson Tonight lost over a dozen sponsors—and rightly so. The only downside is it took these companies so long to distance themselves from Carlson and his show.

As Duca explains, Carlson protests that his right to free speech is being disregarded, and while he’s right that he’s being “silenced” by boycotters who exert pressure on companies not to advertise on his show, this is not inherently unfair. Or as she puts it, “I keep Command-F-ing the Constitution, and can’t seem to find the place where our founding fathers guaranteed that a bigotry variety hour be sponsored by IHOP.”

Other critics advocating on behalf of Carlson—or specifically, against any boycotts—suggest there is danger in allowing customer protests to dictate advertisers’ decision-making. We might see corporate sponsors shying away from the political arena altogether unless to support a pro-corporate message. Or commentators who are also members of vulnerable minority groups might be attacked with strategic boycotts based on some vague conservative “moral” objection. Cue the slippery slope imagery.

It’s worth noting at this point that sponsors jumping ship is not censorship. This is not to say that the abstract idea of companies as arbiters of content is necessarily A-OK either; while we might revel in Carlson losing advertisers, we have seen what companies like Facebook have done in their negation of content that veers toward either political extreme and away from the corporatist mainstream vanguard.

Still, it’s not as if the long arm of the federal government is holding Tucker down. If businesses don’t wish to align themselves with your brand, that’s their decision. We might disagree if we feel their standards are being applied unevenly—or not at all. In any case, the free speech defense rings a bit hollow with FOX News’s boy wonder here.

Even if we frame the argument for or against Tucker Carlson in terms of constitutional liberties, though, the point Duca makes is that defending him on the basis of a “both sides” argument assumes he is a legitimate journalist with legitimate opinions. But he’s not, and his hate speech as deemed acceptable by corporate sponsors isn’t guaranteed by the First Amendment. Furthermore, it’s not as if his opinions are merely bad ones. They’re intentionally designed to dehumanize their subjects.

What makes this so troublesome is that views like Carlson’s are not based on facts. There is no preponderance of data which supports them. Duca similarly assails a Yahoo! News ad as part of the company’s “see all sides” campaign in which the statement “immigrants enrich us” is juxtaposed with “immigrants endanger us.” The implication is that the two ideas are on a par with one another, but the latter is, as one Twitter user put it, “racist garbage.” Immigrants are no more likely than native citizens—and are, according to multiple studies, statistically less likely—to commit dangerous crimes. It’s a false equivalency.

Duca closes with these thoughts on the immigration “debate” as it involves Carlson:

According to Carlson and those condemning the boycotts of his show, the right to empower white supremacy relies on the idea that all views deserve unbridled expression regardless of public will or their relative harm. This creates a perverted juxtaposition in which personhood is set on a level playing field with bigotry. The idea that a group who is being targeted has no right to self-defense is a patently absurd. You could fault Carlson’s line of thinking as a person with a soul, or just as someone who comprehends the basic principles of logic. If nothing else, we can thank Carlson for the egregiousness of this example, which reveals the fatal flaw at the core of “both sides” nonsense with stunning clarity. Carlson insists that his dehumanization of immigrants be heard based on the ignorance at the core of “both sides-ism” and the “free speech” hysteria that often surrounds it. Beneath his whiny white supremacy lies the ugly fallacy that somehow all opinions are equal, but all people aren’t.

There’s no context in which Carlson’s commentary is acceptable or correct, and therefore no use in “debating” him on the merits of his arguments. Boycotting his program is the most direct way of telling him that he and his rhetoric have limits—even if his employer doesn’t enforce any. To insist otherwise is to make it that much more likely his hate has a place in everyday conversations.


For many conscientious objectors to the way the Trump administration is handling enforcement of immigration law and its messaging on the need for border security, irrespective of what we think about illegal immigration or the efficacy of any wall/slatted steel barrier, what is striking is the heartlessness inherent in their attitudes and speech, as well as those espoused views of their supporters. If the parents didn’t want to be separated from their children, they shouldn’t have crossed illegally. If they want to apply for asylum, they should do it at a port of entry. I mean, only two children died in federal custody. Um, that’s not that bad, right?

It shouldn’t be surprising that fundamental misunderstanding of how asylum/immigration works and what exactly families from Mexico and Central America are leaving behind accompanies this spirit of overall callousness. The insistence on applying for asylum at ports of entry doesn’t account for the delays in processing applications and the refusal of customs officers to even entertain asylum-seekers, as well as President Trump’s and Jeff Sessions’s modifications—attempted or otherwise—to make asylum or other lawful entry more difficult for those who would entreat it. Nor does it appreciate the seriousness of the threat of violence in the region related to the drug trade, a situation we have helped fuel.

As for the whole kids dying in federal custody thing, I’m not sure how this can really be deemed acceptable, but there are people who will defend it along the lines of my sample remark above. Kevin McAleenan, head of Customs and Border Protection, has claimed that federal agents did “everything they could” to avoid the deaths of two children age seven or younger while defending the administration’s agenda. So, what—we just chalk these up as “oopsies,” shrug our shoulders, and move on?

McAleenan also sought to defend not telling Congress about the death of the seven-year-old when he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, so his judgment is already somewhat suspect. Either way, children shouldn’t just mysteriously up and die. And DHS chief Kirstjen Nielsen should really have made more of an effort to know how many children had died in federal custody before her own testimony—not to mention not waiting until a second child died to visit the U.S.-Mexico border.

On the subject of separation of families and putting mothers and their children in cages, meanwhile, Donald Trump’s defenders will point to their trusty rebuttal of “Obama did it first.” As it bears constant reminding, however, while Barack Obama and his administration were not above reproach in their numbers of deportations and of prosecuting people who entered the United States illegally, the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy stepped it up and then some.

Under Obama, at least initially, asylum-seekers and parents were only targeted in extreme circumstances (e.g. the father was carrying drugs). By contrast, under Trump, they were detained and separated as part of standard operating procedure, and with increased vigor. In Obama’s case, too, the administration was responding to a surge in unaccompanied minors crossing the border and a lack of resources leading to struggles in accommodating these numbers. That it sought to deter asylum-seekers by detaining and deporting them expeditiously was bad policy, but eventually, Obama put an emphasis on removing those who committed felonies or were otherwise considered dangerous. Besides, the courts checked him on the use of detention as a means of deterrence for more than 20 days, citing Flores v. Reno as precedent.

With Trump, on the other hand, his administration has aggressively sought to overturn the Flores settlement and to separate families, aiming to hold them indefinitely and longer than 20 days as well as take children away from their parents and treat them as “unaccompanied minors.” Trump has also bandied about the notion of ending birthright citizenship, whether or not he can actually achieve it. What’s more, even if this were Obama’s legacy—which it isn’t, noting the shift in us-versus-them rhetoric and the indiscriminate persecution of immigrants—that was then and this is now. Donald Trump clearly hasn’t learned any lessons from his predecessor—not that he really wanted to in the first place.

Coming from a man who began his presidential campaign with labeling Mexicans as rapists and other criminals with a broad brush, and who refuses to take one scintilla of responsibility for anything that happens during his tenure, it should surprise no one that an agenda predicated on fear and hate would be devoid of empathy. That it would resonate with those who voted for him and those who continue to stand by him is what continues to confound many of us not among them. It sounds almost silly, but we simply can’t wrap our minds around this sort of indifference to human suffering.

And yet, as Adam Serwen wrote about in a piece for The Atlantic from October of last year, the cruelty of it all “is the point.” Beginning with allusions to 20th century lynchings and other state-sponsored murders of blacks with the photographs of white men grinning alongside their bodies, Serwen makes the connection between the present-day cruelty of the Trump administration, a cruelty which includes the “ethnic cleansing” of the president’s anti-immigrant stances but also extends to the male-dominated laughter at Christine Blasey Ford’s expense (and that of all other survivors of sexual violence).

In all cases, there is a communion based on the shared enjoyment of others’ suffering, a perverse joy that, much as we might be loath to accept it, is part of the human condition. Worse yet, it is a communion built on hypocrisy. Only President Trump, his family, his inner circle, his supporters, and those people he himself supports deserve “the rights and protections of the law, and if necessary, immunity from it.” All others merit scorn, if not outright abuse.

Serwen concludes his article with these thoughts that echo Lauren Duca’s take-down of Tucker Carlson:

Trump’s only true skill is the con; his only fundamental belief is that the United States is the birthright of straight, white, Christian men, and his only real, authentic pleasure is in cruelty. It is that cruelty, and the delight it brings them, that binds his most ardent supporters to him, in shared scorn for those they hate and fear: immigrants, black voters, feminists, and treasonous white men who empathize with any of those who would steal their birthright. The president’s ability to execute that cruelty through word and deed makes them euphoric. It makes them feel good, it makes them feel proud, it makes them feel happy, it makes them feel united. And as long as he makes them feel that way, they will let him get away with anything, no matter what it costs them.

To hear Serwen talk about Donald Trump in this way provides at least some comfort to those of us who oppose everything he represents. I personally have bristled at the notion Trump deserves credit for anything, even when it is pulling one grand confidence trick, because appealing to people’s baser instincts is generally not something I’d hold in any esteem. That Serwen would limit Trump’s talents to this questionable skill, though, reinforces the idea that Trump is not nearly as skilled as some would make him out to be save for his ability to connect with those of a like mindset.

It is through this lens that we can view Tucker Carlson’s hate speech and the futility of debate on its merits. When the narrative has no merit because it is built on the negation of the other’s humanity and on distortions of reality, what utility is there in trying to expose or rationalize this line of thinking away? Along these lines, when cruelty is the driving force behind a shared vision of America, what is the use of amplifying the voices that would coalesce this mentality?

For this reason and more, discussion of boycotting Carlson’s show and the Trump family’s business enterprises is well appropriate. As far as the mainstream is concerned, their message of division must not be normalized. While we should stop short of violence to achieve this purpose, coming out in support of marginalized groups and standing up to each white supremacist rally with vastly greater numbers where it may arise is essential. You can’t debate cruelty and hate with those that choose to make them their modus operandi, but you can show that they have no place among what can be deemed generally acceptable.

America Should—But Probably Won’t—Take Responsibility for Promoting Violence in Central America

maratrucha_lucha
No one is here to defend MS-13, but the United States government’s approach to combating gang violence and illegal immigration from Central America, as well as its refusal to take ownership of its role in perpetuating poverty and unrest in the so-called Northern Triangle, may be counterproductive to its aims in these regards. (Photo Credit: Federal Bureau of Investigation)

When you are Donald Trump or one of his surrogates and regularly divorce cause and effect—or are simply divorced from reality—you are free to distort details and expel falsehoods to support your narrative. Though it has been repeatedly observed, it’s worth stressing that Trump started his presidential campaign spewing inaccuracies about Mexican people as criminals and rapists, without revealing any master plan to fix this “broken” immigration system. It was outrageous. It was reprehensible. What’s more, it worked.

Since then, Trump and Co. haven’t exactly gotten more accurate or presidential over time. While concern for the separation of immigrant families, how and where they’re being detained, and how and when—if at all—those already separated will be re-united have dominated headlines, the Trump administration hasn’t softened its rhetoric any. Outside of relenting on the issue of separating children from their mothers, President Trump has authorized the creation of a “denaturalization” task force, one that seeks to remove naturalized citizens on clerical or other “technicalities” and which has evoked comparisons to the Red Scare.

Critics of the White House’s immigration policy have taken to referring to it in rather dark terms, labeling it “ethnic cleansing.” They’re not wrong, either. Amid the elaboration of a white nationalist agenda which has seen senior advisor Stephen Miller and Department of Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen emerge as figureheads of the ongoing crisis and, at that, perpetrators, Trump has engaged in more than his fair share of scaremongering in public speeches, at rallies, and on Twitter.

A particular source of animus—and deservedly so in light of their actions, let’s be clear—is Mara Salvatrucha, better known as MS-13. The international gang, associated with various acts of criminality and violence, has served as a go-to bogeyman for Trump in his attacks on Democrats. As Trump would have it, a vote for the Dems in November is a vote to “let MS-13 run wild in our communities.” ICE, meanwhile, is “liberating” communities every day from the organization whose motto reportedly is “kill, rape, control.”

Indeed, MS-13 and other gangs that recruit from Central America and Mexico are a real concern, but Trump is using the specter of past incidents involving its members and existing fears and urban legends about gang violence to try to drum up support for his “zero tolerance” immigration policy and enhanced border security measures. Even belaboring the use of the word “animals” to describe MS-13 has a dog-whistle underlying meaning, as Trump’s indiscriminate employ of this pejorative has been interpreted as a general dehumanization of immigrants and people of color. If Trump hadn’t kicked off his presidential bid denigrating an entire country and its people, we might have a chance of giving him the benefit of the doubt. By now, though, many of us know better, and that Trump knew exactly what he was saying when he used the word “animals” with all its vagaries.

It’s bad enough that Donald Trump and his flunkies embrace an “us vs. them” mentality when it comes to undocumented immigrants as a subset of the larger conversation about who is or isn’t considered a “true” American. You know, largely because of that whole “being a decent human being” thing that Trump seems not to be able to understand. What makes this stance yet more problematic is the notion it fails to recognize—unconsciously or willingly—the United States’ complicity in the conditions which have led to a refugee/asylee crisis in Central America, notably in its “Northern Triangle” (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras).

Cole Kazdin, writing for VICE Media, outlines how the U.S. has had a hand in destabilizing Central American nations long before the era of Trump. Citing Elizabeth Oglesby, an associate professor of Latin American studies at the University of Arizona, heavily throughout the piece, Kazdin depicts a pattern of American intervention on behalf of its own interests—and usually at the expense of competing interests within those countries.

In Guatemala, back in the 1950s, under the guise of fighting communism, the United States helped organize a coup to overthrow the democratically-elected government and continued to train the Guatemalan army into the 1970s, a civil war that Oglesby characterizes in no uncertain terms as “genocide.” In 1970s Nicaragua, the U.S. government directly inserted itself in the clash between the democratic nationalist Sandinistas and the dictatorship helmed by the Somoza family, later supporting the Contras, a material relationship that infamously saw the Reagan administration fund these contrarrevolucionarios through the covert sale of arms to Iran. In El Salvador and Honduras, meanwhile, the U.S. intervened on behalf of the Salvadoran government in an effort to squelch the socialist group FMLN and held military exercises in Honduras.

As Kazdin notes, this is before we even get to the “war on drugs,” an ongoing situation set in motion as part of Richard Nixon’s political agenda that pushed cartels out of Colombia and into the impoverished, unstable Northern Triangle. Going back to MS-13, while its activities are relevant to the war on drugs and their criminality is certainly not to be lauded, Kazdin, via Oglesby, stresses that while the group has strong Salvadoran roots, its origins are traced back to Los Angeles, not Central America.

Furthermore, dwelling on MS-13 overlooks the larger issue of government-linked crime networks that come directly out of the counterinsurgency experience of the 1980s,” according to Oglesby. The American government may not be directly encouraging the rise of gang numbers, but by indirectly paving the way for their growth, its influence looms large. As it is in the Middle East and elsewhere, regime change can produce some unfortunate unintended consequences.

With all this in mind, and getting to the issue of migration and asylum-seeking, despite its hand in catalyzing unsafe, untenable situations in Central America, the United States has made it a habit of refusing asylum to applicants from south of its border, particularly those coming from El Salvador. Now with Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s announcement that domestic violence and gang violence are no longer grounds for asylum, there is every concern that people will continue to try crossing the desert and relying on criminal networks to help smuggle them north, which presents a new set of dangers. Trump and Co. are keeping with the historical trend, but in a way that is seemingly even more overt in terms of racism and xenophobia, and holding to the idea that these additional perilous hoops through which to jump will prove an effective deterrent to illegal immigration, and a disincentive to would-be gangbangers near and south of the border.

Here’s the thing, though: these methods may not be having their intended effect, or may be even serving to exacerbate the situations they profess to fix. On the migration front, Elizabeth Oglesby indicates that militarizing the border serves only to increase migration. Not only has the price of smuggling people north soared commensurate with the uptick in danger, but since it is that much more difficult to return, more families are migrating together to try to keep the unit together.

Another point worth considering: what people are trying to escape in Central America might be as bad or worse than what they face trying to immigrate illegally into the United States. Andres Oppenheimer, writing for The Miami Herald, agrees, and believes the problem will keep getting worse as long as parents have to fear for their lives and those of their children.

Oppenheimer cites Roger Noriega, who served in the State Department under George W. Bush, and who points to gang violence and organized crime—fed to a large extent by a demand for illegal drugs in the States—as destructive forces to economies and state institutions, not to mention individuals who run afoul of bad actors. For too many families in Central America and Mexico, there is a real risk of their children being forced into the employ of gangs and/or having to pay these gangs off for “protection.” Moreover, governments and officials are too often corrupt, powerless to diminish the influence of gangs, or both. Such is not a recipe for substantive positive change.

Trying to put a bandage on the illegal immigration situation in the form of fences/walls and more Border Patrol agents, as Oppenheimer and others would argue, therefore does a poor job of stopping the bleeding when the underlying health of these source countries for asylum-seekers is suspect. In terms of possible solutions, therefore, it would seem prudent, if not necessary, to invest in these countries in a humanitarian capacity and to help fund and mobilize efforts to help combat corruption and crime. Instead, Congress has reduced assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras by almost $85 million since 2017, which almost certainly won’t help willing governments combat the influence of criminal organizations. In other words, isolationism isn’t the answer.

As for MS-13, treating its influence with a “firm hand” may limit its effectiveness and bring up a new set of ethical and moral issues about the procedures used to combat gang violence. In El Salvador, the U.S. government has thrown millions of dollars at curbing the influence of Mara Salvatrucha and other gangs, and the brutality and corruption associated with the Salvadoran government’s approach may be proving counterproductive. A detailed special report for CNN by Nick Paton Walsh, Barbara Arvanitidis, and Bryan Avelar on the link between U.S.-funded police and illegal executions in El Salvador provides a sense of perspective on this note:

While the US program is aimed at improving the effectiveness and legality of El Salvador’s fight against gangs, narcotraffickers and human smugglers, the “Firm Hand” strategy being deployed now by the country’s government — against a gang culture so widespread it amounts to an insurgency of sorts — runs counter to lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to some analysts. In those US-led conflicts, corrupt security forces and brutality exacerbated the ferocity of the insurgency.

Analysts have noted that brutal police tactics have previously backfired, as the gang members killed are sometimes looked upon more favorably in their neighborhoods, or less guilty than intelligence suggests, causing anger in the community and prompting some residents to turn away from the police and towards the gangs.

Not for nothing, but Afghanistan and Iraq are not the kind of examples you want to lead with as analogs of success in dealing with hostile groups. Even when dealing with a potential criminal element in an environment as conducive to drug-related violence as El Salvador, abuses by authorities are liable to produce a backlash, despite the public’s desire for their leaders to be tough on crime. Simply put, a balance has to be struck, and extrajudicial killings tip the scales the wrong way.

At the end of the day, and at a fundamental level, the questions that should be asked by the Trump administration are as follows: 1) “What are we trying to accomplish regarding immigration and violence as it impacts the United States, Mexico, and Central America?” 2) “Are we accomplishing what we have set out to accomplish?” and 3) “If so, are the solutions worth the costs?” Thus far, however, there is little to suggest the relevant problems have even been adequately defined, let alone sufficiently addressed, and with all the finger-pointing that President Trump has done, you can be sure he hasn’t considered America’s role in perpetuating worrisome trends.


Returning to Cole Kazdin’s column for a moment, while Elizabeth Oglesby’s damning analysis of U.S. relations with Central America features prominently in her analysis, the words of civil rights advocates and other experts carry as much weight—if not more—and succinctly state the case for America’s direct engagement with Mexico and the countries of the Northern Triangle in a more diplomatic and even-handed way.

Per Xochitl Sanchez, TPS (Temporary Protected Status) coordinator for CARECEN, the Central American Resource Center in Los Angeles, the United States has “a moral and social responsibility to this population of immigrants as they are complicit in the creation of the conditions of forced migration” of these countries, notably El Salvador. Charles Kamasaki, senior cabinet advisor for UNIDOS US, also cited within Kazdin’s piece, likewise believes in acting in accord with a moral imperative steeped in equanimity and reciprocity. As Kamasaki puts forth, “For those who felt strongly that we should intervene in Central America, whether it was to fight communism, or to maintain good conditions for business so American consumers could enjoy cheap bananas or Nicaraguan coffee, I would argue that responsibility’s a two-way street. If we enjoy benefits, then that brings with it some obligations.”

Alas, “diplomacy” in the era of President Donald Trump evidently involves starting trade wars and other confrontations with our presumed allies, railing against the likes of Justin Trudeau and Angela Merkel while praising dictatorial leaders like Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and Kim Jong-un. If we can’t get along with Canada, a row with whom comedian Seth Meyers likened to “holding a grudge against a golden retriever puppy,” there’s obviously little room for a spirit of cooperation with countries like El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, nations replete with brown-skinned individuals who speak Spanish and, therefore, must be demonized as part of Trump’s demagoguery.

For Christ’s sake, the man picked a fight with Carmen Yulin Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, after the island was hit by a devastating hurricane. These storm victims are American citizens. Just because they are people of color and can’t vote in congressional and presidential elections doesn’t mean they should be an after-thought, especially not when noting the mainland’s role in loading the territory with crippling debt. Instead, Trump being Trump, he lashes out on Twitter and calls people names—especially when they are women and/or people of color and dare to challenge him. I mean, if one were to visit the Oval Office and find a dartboard with a picture of Maxine Waters’s face on it, would he or she be really surprised? Dude’s got an ax to grind.

While harboring guilt about the treatment of Central America’s Northern Triangle to the extent it stunts our ability to act and move forward would be its own issue, that the United States’ historical culpability continues to go largely unspoken makes the prospects of fixing problems which affect North America too (such as gang violence and mass migration) rather grim. America should take more responsibility for promoting violence in Central America. But it probably won’t, and until it does, it would seem the wounds that mark many Central American institutions will continue to stay open.

To view this post as it appears on Citizen Truth, click here. Citizen Truth is an independent and alternative media organization dedicated to finding the truth, ending the left-right paradigm, and widening the scope of viewpoints represented in media and our daily conversations. For more on CT, please visit citizentruth.org.

So, About All Those Refugees Everywhere…

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Will 2017 be any better for the world’s refugees and migrants? Despite some encouraging signs, the overall tepid international response to their plight doesn’t bode well for them. (Photo Credit: Reuters/Marina Militare)

2016 was largely seen as a shitty year. I alluded to as much in my own end-of-the-year recap, telling 2016 to kindly go f**k itself. Of course, with so many people claiming 2016 to be a patently awful 366 days, it led critics to wonder whether or not it truly was the nadir of human civilization. Lorraine Ali, writing for the Los Angeles Times, mused about what has led folks to proclaim 2016 the worst on record. Certainly, the presidential election and all the rancor building up to it (and now spilling over), as well as all the celebrity deaths that seemed to affect so many observers, were strong influences. Concerning those lost in 2016, Alan Rickman, David Bowie, Gene Wilder, Muhammad Ali, and Prince are but a few of the names on the list—and the likes of Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds and George Michael joined them in just the last week of the year. Ultimately, though, Ali closes her commentary by aiming to put things in historical perspective:

We’ve had better years, to be sure. But humanity has survived the Crusades, the Black Death, the Civil War, the Great Depression, world war. It survived 2016, just as it survived the last.

Was it the worst year ever? No, but it was bad enough.

In other words, President Donald Trump is pretty terrible, but not bubonic plague terrible. Fair enough, Ms. Ali. Fair enough. If this historical perspective doesn’t grab you, though, maybe a more expansive worldview is more your speed. To be fair, Lorraine Ali does consider troubling events beyond unfortunate domestic political outcomes and fallen entertainers, although mainly as an aside. Nonetheless, it is here where we pivot to the heart of this post. Ali writes in her opinion piece:

There were those whose names we didn’t know, but they left a lasting impression as footage from the Syrian war and the immigrant crisis made headlines and news cycles. Children pulled lifeless from bombed-out buildings in Aleppo or washed up on the shores of whatever safe haven their families were seeking.

To mourn their deaths is to embrace the humanity we ought to be preserving rather than ripping down. Their passing was a brutal reminder that empathy should not be another causality of 2016. No wonder we wanted to hold on to whatever glimmers of hope we could find.

Humanity. Empathy. Hope. For immigrants and Syrians, no less. It all sounds wonderful. But, um, and don’t take this the wrong way—these do not sound like prevailing sentiments of a sizable cross-section of the U.S. population right now. Nor do they seem like hallmarks of a growing segment of the international community. In Italy, Paolo Gentiloni, who became Prime Minister in December after serving in the role of Minister of Foreign Affairs for two-plus years, indicated intentions to move forward with the first major policy shift of his tenure: enacting a “zero tolerance” policy for illegal migration into the country, which is likely to result in more precise attempts to identify economic migrants who do not have a legitimate claim to asylum within Italy and subsequent mass deportations to deal with these types. Reportedly, prior to deportation, the undocumented migrants will be held in detention centers, more of which are being opened pursuant to this policy shift. This expansion of detention centers, in particular, is a notable shift from the stance of Gentiloni’s predecessor Matteo Renzi, who opposed such facilities in the hopes that undocumented migrants could successfully be integrated within Italy.

There are any number of directions in which we can go with this news. Certainly, the “let’s build a wall” crowd supporting Donald Trump throughout the 2016 election campaign season is probably cheering on Paolo Gentiloni’s new path forward for Italy with vicarious zeal, seeing strong parallels between Italy’s situation and that of the United States, and not-so-secretly wishing authorities here would enact something similar. Realistically, Italy has a more legitimate claim to a need for border security. According to statistics from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Italy surpassed Greece as the site for the highest number of arrivals by sea for migrants and refugees among European Union states, seeing more than 180,000 reach its shores in 2016 alone. That’s a lot of humanity to accommodate—no matter how big the place of arrival.

Additionally, while Germany especially is coming to grips with a terror attack within its bounds, that of an assault at a Christmas market in Berlin by a man driving a tractor-trailer which left 12 dead and 48 injured, Italy can count one of its native-born among the casualties in the person of Fabrizia Di Lorenzo, a 31-year-old ex-pat with multiple Master’s degrees and a love for her adopted home. One person living outside the country’s borders, and yet undoubtedly Italians everywhere, not to mention those non-Italians with even a shred of empathy, feel sadness at the revelation of her passing. As do the relatives and compatriots of the Czech, German, Israeli, Polish and Ukrainian nationals also lost to the senseless violence of the massacre in Berlin.

In effecting a policy of this nature and of its potential scope, Italy naturally makes a theoretical distinction between those who legally seek asylum within the country and those who migrate there to seek a more advantageous situation. Accordingly, we should also be explicit and precise in how we delineate two classes of people who would cross into Italy to seek refuge. On the one hand, we have refugees, defined by the UNHCR thusly:

A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries.

Those who have fled their homes in Syria, for example, would well qualify, especially in light of the travesties experienced in eastern Aleppo as Syrian government forces regained control of most of the city. There are definite exigent circumstances at work here and in similar cases of war, genocidal violence, and other life-or-death situations. Migrants, on the other hand, are individuals who relocate to improve their situation and that of their family. The critical distinction, therefore, and one that carries over to applicable international law, is the idea migrants choose to move to secure a more advantageous position for themselves, whereas refugees are forced to move or else risk persecution, bodily harm, or even death, and because of this, effectively have choice taken away from them.

Of course, this does not imply that so-called “economic migrants” are leaving a life of luxury behind them, nor are they re-locating to an area and status denoted by wealth and privilege. Just because someone doesn’t witness civilians getting shot in the streets doesn’t mean his or her life isn’t hard, or that or he or she doesn’t have aspirations of a better life. Still, with hundreds of thousands of people potentially showing up at a country’s man-made borders or natural geographic dividers, it would stand to reason that a line would have to be drawn somewhere. Moreover, with many of these migrants posing as asylum-seekers and gumming up the works of the immigration and vetting process, it is that much slower and more laborious for would-be refugees in direst need. And this does not even begin to consider those individuals who would play the part of the refugee only to infiltrate a nation and move to harm the citizens already residing there as an agent of ISIS or a similar-minded group—however remote the possibility.

So, is Italy’s intended policy shift a much-needed method of bolstering order and security within the nation, or an unnecessarily draconian and logistically unfeasible turn of domestic policy? Well, not merely to defer to the will of the individual so as to avoid taking a definitive stance, but I think the merits of either argument are in the eyes of the beholder. That is, if you’re a proud nationalist who doesn’t feel a strong need for growing multiculturalism or generally feels as if his or her country is on the downslide, you might be enthusiastic to Paolo Gentiloni’s new direction for Italy. However, if you yourself immigrated to the country you’re in or even got to where you are as a refugee/asylum-seeker, you might be more sympathetic to the plight of those risking life and limb to secure access to a destination country, regardless of their legal status. Outside of, say, ramming a truck into a crowd of unsuspecting Christmas shoppers, there does not seem to be any wrong way of how to think and feel in our personal lives about the refugee and migration crisis. At the very least, unless you turn a blind eye, ear or other sense organ to this worsening problem, you stand to have some sort of unconscious reaction to the events that unfold daily in Europe and in the surrounding areas.

Ay, though, there’s the rub. How easy it is to turn a blind eye to the suffering that persists in war-torn parts of the globe, the strife that manifests so strongly in regions such as Africa and the Middle East, as well as in parts of Asia and eastern Europe. The Simpsons has had so many great individual moments in its 20+ years on television, but one which comes to mind relevant to the above pursuits is when Homer and Marge are sitting in the kitchen reading the newspaper, and the cover story concerns refugees fleeing from an oppressive situation. Marge, the consummate worrier, sighs and says to Homer, “Sheesh. Look at these refugees.” Homer, ever the warm-blooded working-class American male indifferent to their plight or, quite frankly, the plight of anyone beyond his immediate person, however, angrily asks rhetorically, “How about a smile?” Marge, taken aback, insists, “They’ve undergone terrible hardships.” To which Homer scoffs, “Well, moping won’t make it better.”

And that’s the unfortunate paradox of the refugee/migrant epidemic, if you will. These displaced peoples possess some of the most genuine need of anyone on Earth, and therefore, should inspire compassion and pity. However, many well-meaning Americans, relatively well-off, see the enormity of the issue, and judge any contribution they may make as inconsequential. Or they simple lose sight of the problems faced by asylum-seekers worldwide with their own situations to manage. Bills need to get paid. The kids need to get fed. We all need to get throughout the day without killing ourselves or strangling one of our co-workers. There’s only so much time in the day, and when the drudgery of our waking life is behind us, how many of us are willing to confront a topic that is, well, so depressing?

Well, a lot of us aren’t. It’s as with those commercials for the ASCPA or the Humane Society which aired so frequently during the holidays, featuring funereally slow versions of your favorite Christmas tunes and shots of the saddest puppies and kittens shivering in the cold you have ever witnessed. You can’t turn away. You want to reach into the television, unlock to the door to the cage, put your arms around that helpless animal, and bring it right into your living room. And then? The commercial ends. Back to Breaking Bad, or whatever show is playing in a marathon. There’s not enough room in your mind for both thoughts of helpless canines and Walter White building a meth-cooking empire in New Mexico, and unfortunately, one of them has to go. Often, it tends to be the former.

So, what’s the point? Economic refugees and migrants are essentially just a bunch of cats and dogs without a home? No, not exactly, although refugees in particular, like the aforementioned freezing animals of the commercials, are deserving of compassion in their own right. As easy as it is for you and I to turn away from the morning paper with its troublesome headlines, or the nightly news replete with images of the struggles faced by asylum-seekers worldwide, it’s surprisingly straightforward for the target countries of these various peoples who have strayed from home to turn them away or pass them off on a neighboring country. Italy, by planning mass deportations, would have its newfound migrants and refugees become someone else’s problem. Other European nations have taken similar stances toward surging numbers of asylum-seekers, keeping them at bay with physical barriers or otherwise inviting criticism from international human rights watchdogs who have decried both the negation of appeals from these would-be refugees, as well as the all-too-common deplorable conditions at camps designed to hold their numbers.

Even Germany, which has chastised other EU nations for their handling of refugees in the past, is suffering from a bit of an identity crisis, torn between the kind of more permissive policy Angela Merkel and her Christian Democrat supporters have by and large embraced heretofore, and a hard cap embraced by opposing forces in the rival Christian Social Union, itself facing pressure from growing numbers among the nation’s far-right, with the intensity of this internal conflict magnified by present concerns with the nation’s security and terrorist threats after the Berlin attack. In consideration of this, Merkel and her allies have in the past few days floated the notion of a more flexible limit to impose upon acceptance of refugees, as somewhat of a compromise between competing interests in Germany. One would hope this policy shift, should it come to pass, would fare better as a compromise than, say, David Cameron’s concession to the UK Independence Party while still serving as British Prime Minister, which, if you’ll recall, led to a referendum vote on whether or not to leave the EU and a subsequently poor decision by a slender but sufficient majority of UK voters to do just that. Either way, though, that the measure is even being considered is reflective of the larger attitude toward refugees in Europe and elsewhere on Planet Earth, one which appears to be increasingly geared toward isolating them from the rest of the international community. Whether we speak of Germany or Greece or the United States of America, no country is free from ideological differences which put the most vulnerable groups among us in the middle of any discord.

A December 2016 feature by Anealla Safdar and Patrick Strickland for Al Jazeera English proclaimed 2016 as the year the world stopped caring about refugees. A bold statement, but perhaps not wholly undeserved either. The expansive report considers the viewpoints of representatives from a number of interested parties, including experts who work with refugees, representatives from human rights organizations, those concerned with the safe passage of asylum-seekers across waterways and other borders, and even the refugees themselves. And overall, the outlook for 2017 is not all that rosy given what these sources encountered in 2016. From the refugees’ perspective, the general attitude they perceived was one of ambivalence to their situation—countries and their leaders made an outward show of the humanitarian response for which they were apparently responsible, but still essentially wanted the recipients to stay out and/or go back home, even though the literal definition of them being refugees stems from them fleeing destruction and violence. Per Preethi Nallu, editor of Refugees Deeply, an online publication devoted to news about the refugee crisis and the complex issues facing migration, fortifying barriers and militarizing migration hot spots is no long-term solution when smuggling networks would seek to circumvent these controls, further endangering vulnerable peoples.

The hits just keep on coming after that. MSF Sea, Doctors Without Borders’ Mediterranean wing, bluntly assesses 2016 as the year politics and ego won over moral and legal responsibilities to protect migrants and refugees. Bill Frelick, director of Human Rights Watch’s Refugee Rights program, criticizes the types of deals made by the EU and specifically Pakistan to throw Afghani refugees back into the throngs of the displaced, the latter of which went largely unnoticed by the global media in spite of some 400,000 refugees and 250,000 undocumented migrants being ejected from the country. Alarmphone, an activist network and resource for refugees facing distress at sea, highlighted the danger facing those who cross waterways in makeshift craft seeking asylum while affirming their commitment to an inclusive environment for refugees independent of national borders. Milena Zajovic, spokesperson for Are You Syrious?, an informational resource for refugees, expresses her disappointment from those Balkan nations who have undergone the same sorts of violence and situations which have led to refugeeism in the past, only to turn around and refuse refugees in the present. Ramy Abdu, chairman of Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, points to the ongoing but often overlooked, at least in the context of refugeeism, plight of Palestinians, and highlights the depth of the gulf between a growing consciousness of the refugee crisis for some and a knee-jerk tendency to blame refugees for terroristic violence. Simon Cox, a migration lawyer, like Abdu, sees room for optimism in the determination of refugees and solidarity from non-refugees who defend and support them, but underscores this with a call for serious discussion about issues such as corruption within the foremost origin countries among officials, the revolving door of refugees who are sent to their homeland only to return to where they initially sought asylum, and the tendency of wealthy nations to demand that poorer countries accommodate refugees—all the while obstructing refugees and refusing to accommodate them just the same.

As Safdar and Strickland depict the worldwide refugee situation, then, in terms of 2016 being the “worst year ever,” as far as the sheer numbers of those drowned in the Mediterranean are concerned, this claim is accurate, with more than 5,000 losing their lives to failed crossing attempts. More broadly speaking, though, the response of prominent nations—including that of the United States, which elected a candidate in Donald Trump who has espoused an unkind attitude toward immigrants and refugees—has been characterized by a focus on vague notions of border and economic security at the expense of empathy. Italy, despite its unique challenges owing to its geographic location, seems to be exhibiting signs of the same, if Paolo Gentiloni’s new decree is any indication, and Germany runs the risk of following suit.

So, how do we, as ordinary people, help prevent 2017 from being an even worse than worst year ever for the disenfranchised asylum-seekers of the world? Though national governments and international coalitions should yet be entreated to do their part to care for refugees, as usual, waiting on them to act in substantive, meaningful ways alone seems to be hoping for too much. Awareness and visibility of the refugee/migrant crisis is part of the solution, as is material support for refugees and the organizations that support and defend them. Though I’m sure you’ve seen the advertisements for AT&T featuring Lily, the cute and bubbly sales associate, you may not know the actress who plays her, the Uzbek-born Milana Vayntrub, and her family fled persecution themselves in the Soviet Union before coming to the United States. Not until seeing the waves of refugees and migrants trying to make their way to relative safety in Greece, though, did the extent of the crisis begin to make an impression on her. Her subsequent creation, alongside entrepreneur Eron Zehavi, of Can’t Do Nothing, a charitable organization designed to help everyday individuals assist and make a positive impact on refugees worldwide, is just one of the avenues to facilitate social media outreach, volunteering and donations to benefit those affected by the global refugee crisis.

In talking of those affected by the global refugee crisis, of course, I speak of those directly and personally impacted by the conditions which inform it. But we are all affected by this crisis, as well as the factors which mediate it—climate change, conflict, economic deprivation, statelessness—whether we realize it or choose to ignore it. The question is: which camp are you in?

For more information on Can’t Do Nothing, please visit cantdonothing.org.