Human Trafficking in the Trump Era

Human trafficking, or “the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act,” is unarguably one of the ugliest practices in the modern world. According to statistics released by the International Labour Organization, over 21 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking, and human trafficking grosses over $150 billion USD annually, making it also one of the world’s most lucrative and widespread illegal industries. The human suffering endured as a victim of human trafficking is unthinkable; a simple Google search for “human trafficking stories” reveals headlines such as “I carried his name on my body for nine years.”

In February, when President Donald Trump announced his commitment to ending the “epidemic” of human trafficking, many took a sigh of relief, knowing that human trafficking will remain a bipartisan and universal priority in our uncertain political climate. However, it is also critical to analyze how Trump’s policies affect human trafficking. In this article,  I will analyze immigration and poverty, two areas that contribute the most to human trafficking in the United States, and what Trump’s actions thus far mean for human trafficking.


Post-Election Shock: Thoughts on the Impact of Trump Presidency

Over the past week, almost all of the conversations that I’ve heard around me were regarding the results from the recent political election. And so if you haven’t heard yet: Mr. Donald Trump is our new president-elect.

The election’s outcome has taken over my coffee runs, my dinners, my email inbox and even my personal thoughts. Nonetheless, I think that it’s crucial to have the conversation because it’s arguably the first time that our society as a collective has been forced to acknowledge all of the bigotry, racism, sexism, and homophobia (despite having existed for years) that make up this country. And although the new president-elect Donald Trump may not necessarily advocate for such hatred (though I would like to argue otherwise), he is an emblem of what America truly is and always has been.


A female philanthropist and investment manager is leading the movement to challenge Britain’s current process for leaving the European Union. Gina Miller, a British activist with an appetite for campaigning against hidden fund charges in the City of London, and exposing irresponsible investment funds for malpractice, argued that without legislation passed in Parliament, Britain cannot begin Brexit negotiations. Her appeal won. Last week, Britain’s High Court ruled that the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, may not begin Brexit talks without Parliamentary consent.


The Limits of American Democracy

Voting and involvement in the democratic process is one of the most basic rights a citizen can have, but in the United States access to this supposedly inalienable right is limited.  Although we are taught that we live in a country built upon a foundation of democracy and equality, our society has instead been structured around the protection of the livelihood of white people through the violent subjugation of minorities.  This subjugation has caused the denial of the humanity and fundamental rights of minority groups, including voting rights, and did not miraculously end in 1968 at the close of the Civil Rights Movement.  Although seemingly a relic of the past, the war on minority voters has continued through both legislative and unofficial reasons.


Clandestine Radio Fights ISIS Non-Violently

An Iraqi trailblazer has found a creative solution to the communication embargo imposed by ISIS in their last Iraqi stronghold, Mosul, which the group has controlled since June 2014. Mohamad Al Mawsily, a Mosul-native, broadcasts seven days a week on his pirate radio station, Alghad FM, Arabic for tomorrow. His station serves as a forum “to communicate with the people inside Mosul” and provide a psychological escape from the ISIS-held region of Northern Iraq. His mission is to “break the siege by Daesh”—the Arabic word for ISIS—by overcoming one of their most essential means of control: suppression and propaganda in the realm of ideas.


A Brief History of Racism in Redlining

Redlining [red-lahy-ning]: noun: a discriminatory practice by which banks, insurance companies, etc., refuse or limit loans, mortgages, insurance, etc., within specific geographic areas, especially inner-city neighborhoods.


The practice of redlining in cities across the United States, including Philadelphia, started with the creation of the Federal Housing Administration in 1934 and ended in 1968 with the Fair Housing Act.

A key that shows different rankings of regions, as written on security maps. [via The Atlantic]

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) created maps that ranked residential neighborhoods based on their desirability for further investment in a color-coded system. Often, higher ranks of “A” or “B” were likely to receive loans, while ranks of “C” or “D” were likely to be denied loans.

The FHA used various factors to differentiate rankings of zones, among which was the description of the kinds of people living in the area. Often, areas that were predominantly African American communities, or even immigrant communities, were ranked low on the scale. The common, but unstated, thought was that the arrival of African Americans and Immigrant in a community signaled the decline and ultimate demise of a neighborhood.


What About the Paris Agreement? November 2016: A Tipping Point

A year ago this December, I was standing in la Place du Pantheon in the fifth arrondissement of Paris, surrounded by a circle of colossal icebergs melting quickly in the uncharacteristically warm winter weather.  I was an intern for Artists4ClimateParis, a government-funded project commissioning and installing climate-themed art in the streets of Paris in the lead up to the Paris Climate Change Conference 2015. These icebergs constituted a public art piece called “Ice Watch” by Olafur Eliasson, a Danish artist; the piece was realized by bringing twelve, ten-ton icebergs from Iceland and installing them in Place du Pantheon. I spent most of my week in Paris curating “Ice Watch” for the public, and I grew bizarrely attached to it; the piercing aqua blue of the ice radiated in the sunshine, and by breathing the air molecules released from the ice into the square, one was breathing in air last present in the atmosphere thousands of years ago. As the icebergs melted and shrunk in front of the eyes of astounded Parisians, artist Eliasson’s message was all too clear.


Poland Backs Down From Near-Total Abortion Ban After Massive Protest

Abortion has often been a controversial subject throughout the past century, in different societies. In many countries abortion is still illegal, rendering women who continue with the procedure at higher risk, due to harmful and unverified abortion methods. Some countries have adopted the abortion law, which permits, prohibits, restricts, or otherwise regulates the availability of abortions. However, according to the World Health Organization, the abortion rates are similar in countries where it is legal to countries where it is not. Furthermore, there are no international laws ensuring that a proper abortion law, making sure all women have equal access to the procedure, is applicable throughout the world. The American Convention on Human Rights declared human life as commencing with conception in 2013, whereas the United Nations Human Rights Committee ordered Peru to compensate a woman denied abortion in 2005, which was only done in 2016. This was the first time that an international committee acknowledged that abortion is a human right.

It is important to note that in 97% of all countries, abortion is permitted when a woman’s health is at risk. 49% accept it in the case of rape or incest, 69% in the case of physical health, and 24% because of economic or social reasons. Only 29% of all countries accept abortion upon a woman’s request. Even in the United States, despite the changes brought about by the Supreme Court decisions in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton in 1973, there exist many restrictions to how an abortion can be conducted in certain circumstances, including physician and hospital requirements, gestational limits, or waiting periods.


Technology To Help a Refugee System That Can Be Failing

Although the United Nation Human Rights Convention enforces international organizations and governments to fully protect refugees and help in their settlement, a lot of the refugees find themselves in unsettling and waiting situations. Because they are waiting for their asylum status to be processed, or working on attaining a level of English high enough to find a job, they lose time and energy. Their resources are almost put to waste because the countries welcoming them do not recognize their past experiences. As Alexander Betts pointed out in a recent TedTalk, Our Refugee System is Failing. Here is How We Can Fix It, “We lament labor shortages, and yet we exclude people who fit our economic and demographic needs from coming to Europe…the refugees get stuck in an almost indefinite limbo”.

Alexander Betts then explains that there are four ways to change the situation to update the ways we think about the refugee issue and to take advantage of the opportunities of globalization, mobility and markets. That is, the idea of enabling environments and economic zones, increasing preference matching between states and refugees, and administering more humanitarian visas.

The city of Berlin has come up with a new strategy, focused on the idea of technology. For instance, on February 21st, a social entrepreneur, Anne Kjaer Riechert, opened a school to teach coding after she met an Iraqi developer in a refugee camp who hadn’t had the chance to touch at a computer in two years because he was waiting for his asylum process to be completed. The school, named ReDI School of Digital Integration, will be based in seven different places in the city, known as incubation centers, enabling to offer coding and mentoring sessions to the refugees as a way to wait for the finalization of asylum claims.

Furthermore, technology is helping to deliver aid to refugees in the form of registration with biometric verification, smartcard-based aid, smart device data collection, mobile communications and telemedicine. Indeed, the use of IRISScan speeds up the process of registration. Any refugee needs to register through the UNHCR database in order to be recognized as such and receive aid in the form of shelter, food, healthcare and education. In addition, technology is useful to remind refugees of doctors’ appointments, health checks, and vaccination requirements, or to provide video calls for medical consultations in camps or other places. Finally, smartphones are crucial for the refugees to find solace and contact each other in their state of transit and loss of safety. Smartphones enable them to find a place to sleep, translate foreign languages, communicate with foreigners and loved ones, and the like.

To assist refugees to the most efficient degree of our digital age, at a time when authorities prove to not be so cooperative by confiscating cellphones at borders for instance, a few organizations were created, like the school in Berlin, and a conference occurred in London. These initiatives matter to ensure that the refugees do not end up in a state of infinite limbo. One of the ideas was to create an app, ‘GeeCycle’, to engage people to donate cellphones to refugees. ‘Trace the Face’ from the Red Cross involves uploading photos to locate missing family members, ‘Refugees Welcome’ uses Airbnb to match refugees with people offering a place to stay in Germany, or ‘’ to provide ups-to-date, location-specific logistical info on housing, authorities and social services. Providing better mobile networks ensures to keep refugees off smuggling services, labor trafficking, and the like, as it is easy to publish fake advertisements.

Germany has accomplished a lot in terms of thinking about technology for refugees to provide a smooth resettlement and it is time to expand this thinking globally. With better resettlement, there is a lesser risk of chaos, statelesness and general violence. There is lesser risk of children left on the shore.