The moving plight of migrants
Immigration issues are widely considered to be controversial. But are they really?
They're certainly controversial among politicians, who use them as wedge issues to divide us. But polls show that among the rest of us, there's not much controversy to be found — Americans largely agree on issues: from whether undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay in the United States, to birthright citizenship, to creating a path to citizenship for the undocumented, there's not nearly as much disagreement as some might have us believe.
Consider how you would view the following numbers from the Pew Research Center if they were election results — many of them would be considered landslide wins and there would be little doubt about which direction the nation had chosen:
• Seventy-four percent of Americans say undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay in the United States legally.
• Seventy-one percent say they should not only be allowed to stay, but should be able to apply for either citizenship or permanent residency.
• Sixty percent oppose changing the Constitution to require parents to be legal residents in order for their newborn children to automatically be citizens.
• Fifty-four percent oppose building a fence across the entire border with Mexico, a number that has not changed since 2007.
Even the 54 percent figure on the border fence would be considered a convincing win in an election. So why are these issues seen as "controversial?" Because the politics of division requires it.
Right, left, conservative, liberal, independent or none of the above, ask yourself whether the candidates you support are working to bring people together or drive them apart. Because division is a loss for all of us.
Winter weather in Syria
Everyone knows things are bad in Syria — 4.6 million people have fled the country seemingly bent on destroying itself.
But thanks to the weather, things are getting worse.
While the East Coast of the United States was digging out from a blizzard, CARE says a massive snowstorm is bringing winter weather to the Middle East, leaving the most vulnerable in an even more precarious situation.
"We are 12 people living in one house and we only have one kerosene heater for all of us," Amneh Awad, 68, a widowed Syrian refugee living in Irbid, Jordan, told CARE. "Our house is humid. In winter we cover the windows with blankets to keep it warm. When it is raining and the blankets are wet we have to squeeze the blankets and hang them, again."
The agency says freezing temperatures, heavy wind, driving rain and hail and snow in the mountains is making life even more difficult for those displaced within Syria and those who have fled but are still in the region.
"It is not a deliberate lack of preparedness," said Richard Hamilton, CARE's Regional Syria Response director. "Families simply don't have the necessary means to purchase fuel, or repair their shelters or severely substandard housing. They need more assistance, but this crisis response remains underfunded."
CARE officials say they have helped 35,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey with winterization cash assistance, mattresses, blankets, gas heaters, and clothing, plus another 50,000 people inside Syria, but many more will go without.
The inner life does not stop
Ever wonder what it's like to live in a refugee camp? Thanks to a media workshop run by a visiting filmmaker at an activity center in a camp in Jordan, you can see life through the eyes of then 17-year-old Khaldiya.
The New York Times has the documentary she made in 2014, called "Another Kind of Girl," and it is not only surprisingly well done, but a moving, intimate portrait of the inner life that does not stop, even when everything else in life seems to.
Khaldiya [only her first name is given to protect her identity] says she had to overcome her shyness to make the video, but this is not a plea for contributions, a cry for help or even an expression of outrage at the circumstances she and her family are in. Instead, it is a powerful statement of a girl telling the world, "This is my life."
Remember, links, tips and accounts of the response to any crisis anywhere in the world are always welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.