Archive for July, 2014

The world is currently at war. From Israel to Iraq, Ukraine to Syria, somewhere in every corner of the globe there is a firefight. Perhaps the most influential conflict that is currently facing the U.S. is not exactly a firefight…yet. In fact, it is one that is right outside our front door. The current border crisis, which in fact has dragged on for decades, is starting to make an influx into mainstream headlines. This time, it is not only refugees from Mexico who are flooding the perimeter but children from countries as far as Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Yes, it is the children coming through the U.S.-Mexico border unaccompanied who are making this problem into a crisis for which the U.S. must pay attention.

The stories of these children have made their way onto the pages of national news such as the New York Times and their voices heard on radio shows such as NPR News. Stories of human trafficking, rape, drug money, and smuggling involving minors are slowly beginning to enlighten the unaware, middle class American. Some on the outside would argue that the sheer volume of children under 18 years of age crossing the border has turned this from a criminal problem into a humanitarian crisis.

APTOPIX Immigration Overload

Even with these accounts in mainstream news, the stories of these children will not be completely told thru these media. They need their own platform in which they can reveal to the world what is really going on in their home countries, in all of its gruesome detail. What I truly find extraordinary is that this crisis, which has existed for most of my life and although a very brutal reality, will barely even scratch the surface of social media – the place where the people who need to hear about it regularly flock. Facebook in its current form has installed so many filters and personalized content that you could virtually block everything out from your newsfeed that is not another buzzfeed about celebrities. Youtube will continue to censor content that it deems “offensive” to the good of the community. In the days of the Egypt protests, Twitter came into the spotlight as a platform for sharing with the more “aware” world of what was really going on. However, in this case I don’t believe Twitter will have the same influence in igniting that same kind of revolution the way it did in the Middle East for a few major reasons.

No Access

In Egypt online access was dominant, which made social media easily accessed to share with the world. In Central America, the same kind of access is scarce and almost nonexistent in some countries. Money to pay for internet access is tightly controlled by the regime, the upper class, and the drug cartel network, making a Twitter revolution nearly impossible for children whose families live on only $1 a week. Smartphones are very few and far between, let alone paying the fee to broadcast. These children do not have the luxury of building a network of followers the same way children of other countries do.

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Language Barrier

Even with limited access into the social media realm, very few children in this crisis will be able to tweet into the conversation to the rest of the world due to reality that not everyone speaks Spanish. While North America is slowly becoming more bilingual, a majority of the “influencers” do not have the ability or even refuse to bother learning Spanish. This goes for both the compassionate humanitarians to the strong-armed patriots. Even for someone looking to make a difference, an average American wouldn’t even begin to know where to start among the English or Spanish hashtags to hear from the children’s mouths themselves.

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Too Much Haze

What is probably going to make this crisis evolve into an all out war is the content that is currently being tweeted revolving around the political spectrum of it all. Instead of treating this as a humanitarian issue, most tweeters have taken a more political stance by calling out President Obama, Governor Rick Perry and other politicians on a failed border policy. Left bashes right, right bashes left, and so on. Images of angry politicians, protesters, militias, and political cartoons and memes dominate Twitter feeds worldwide rather than images of the kids themselves. There are messages like this:

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And ones like this:

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But where are the tweets by kids exposing what’s really going on on the other side of the border?

Why we need to give a shit

Our country, the United States of America, is one whose fabric has been sown by the immigrants who have come to this nation. There is a reason why people left the countries they came from to come to America, not because it was an “easier” life, but to escape things like violence, brutality and genocide. Our nation would not be what it is today if it hadn’t been for that chance for people to follow opportunity, live freedom, and escape tyrant governments across the world. Companies, organizations, major corporations, and families would not have the strong bonds they have without those brave souls who took the bold step to enter a land of prosperity. We are now in an age where we can communicate across borders to build a network that is just as strong if not stronger in order to help people in need. Additionally, the United States has reached a status in the world in which its people have the power and influence to take action and fix the countries from which they came.

This crisis will continue to go on unless we take action to stop it. But it will not stop by simply turning children away. We need to go to the root of the problem and answer the hard questions: what is causing these children to flee to the U.S.? What is happening in their home countries? Is it the drug cartels extending their influence, or is it corrupt governments failing the people? Why are they going to the U.S. instead of traveling further into South America? And what is the right solution for the problem?  In this case, it might require more than just a Twitter revolution, but it is still completely possible to initiate a network online. The Zapatistas of Mexico did the same thing 20 years ago with Chiapas94, so I know that such a communication network to build a revolution can be possible. I cannot tell you whether the ultimate solution will be protest, military force, humanitarian aid, or immigration reform, but I will say that something needs to be done soon or more people from multiple countries will continue to die.