Angelina Jolie weighed in on the divisive immigration and refugee debate on Thursday, February 2, 2017, with an opinion piece in the New York Times. In the op-ed piece, Jolie touched on several key points while expressing dismay about the recent executive order that has banned the entry of refugees and citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries. Jolie never mentions President Trump by name or mentions any actions by the current administration except for a single sentence in the second paragraph of her piece.
The rest of the op-ed is a balanced piece that acknowledges that the threat from terrorism and a global refugee crisis does justify a government assessing how best to secure its borders. At the same time, she also points out that the response to threats like this must be based on facts, not just random rules made from fear.
She also points out that refugees currently admitted to the United States undergo intense scrutiny.
“Refugees are in fact subject to the highest level of screening of any category of traveler to the United States. This includes months of interviews, and security checks carried out by the F.B.I., the National Counterterrorism Center, the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department.”
What makes Jolie’s argument so persuasive is her experience in dealing with refugees all over the world. In 2012, Angelina Jolie-Pitt was appointed Special Envoy to the UN working on over 50 field missions. During these missions, she has become an advocate and a respected authority on displaced refugees. Her role as a Special Envoy conveys an authority that most people don’t realize. She isn’t a celebrity spokesperson; Jolie is a full-fledged diplomat, serving as the special envoy for the High Commissioner for Refugees.
Jolie has spoken passionately in front of the United Nations many times about the plight of refugees. In 2010, she spoke to the UN Security Council, reminding them that they had a duty to look beyond the huge numbers of men, women, and children who were victims of sexual violence during times of conflict. Instead, they had to remember that behind each number was “a person with a name, personality, a story, and dreams no different than ours and those of our children.”
Last year, while speaking to the BBC, Angelina Jolie warned that the international humanitarian system for refugees was breaking down. The numbers were staggering. One in 122 people around the world was displaced; this number was the highest in 70 years. On top of that, the average time that a person would be displaced was nearly 20 years. She also made this nearly prescient comment, warning that there was a,
“risk of a race to the bottom, with countries competing to be the toughest, in the hope of protecting themselves whatever the cost or challenge to their neighbours, and despite their international responsibilities.”
Jolie warned that isolationism was also not an answer to the refugee problem. She said that locking your door when your neighbor’s house was on fire did not make you safe. The resolution to the refugee problem would define the world for this century, because, she said, “the alternative is chaos.”
In Thursday’s opinion piece, she reiterated many of the same points, pointing out that the world was in the middle of the worst refugee crisis since World War II. She pointed to the history of America working to uphold international standards on the treatment of refugees before asking a pointed question.
“What will be our response if other countries use national security as an excuse to start turning people away, or deny rights on the basis of religion? What could this mean for the Rohingya from Myanmar, or for Somali refugees, or millions of other displaced people who happen to be Muslim? And what does this do to the absolute prohibition in international law against discrimination on the grounds of faith or religion?”
The rest of the opinion piece is stark and lays bare hard questions about America’s role in the world, ending with a simple plea.
“We all want to keep our country safe. So we must look to the sources of the terrorist threat — to the conflicts that give space and oxygen to groups like the Islamic State, and the despair and lawlessness on which they feed. We have to make common cause with people of all faiths and backgrounds fighting the same threat and seeking the same security. This is where I would hope any president of our great nation would lead on behalf of all Americans.”
[Featured Image by Tanya Makeyeva/AP Images]