When not wrangling copy for the MoJo crew, Ian writes about immigration, sports, and Latin America. His work has appeared in ESPN the Magazine, Wired, and Slate. Got a comment or a tip? Email him: igordon [at] motherjones [dot] com.
Champs doesn't seem to know what it wants to be. Is it a paean to boxing mythology that relies on celebrity fans (Mark Wahlberg, Denzel Washington, 50 Cent, and Mary J. Blige) to sing its praises? Is it a memoir of three iconic heavyweights: Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, and Bernard Hopkins? Is it a sociological take on inner-city America and the criminal-justice system? Or, most interestingly, is it a stinging indictment of the sport's inadequate regulations—of predatory managers, brain trauma, and more—that led one journo to call boxing "laissez-faire capitalism run amok"? By aspiring to do too much, Champs delivers more of a glancing blow than a KO.
The Duke University student newspaper reported today that a player recently dismissed from the school's powerhouse men's basketball team had been twice accused of sexual assault. Moreover, it found that athletic department officials, including Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski, knew about the allegations as early as last March but failed to act for months.*
According to the Chronicle, two different women claimed that junior guard Rasheed Sulaimon had sexually assaulted them during the 2013-14 school year. In October 2013, a woman told classmates at a retreat that Sulaimon had assaulted her; at the same retreat in February 2014, another woman made a similar claim. The Chronicle reported that the team psychologist was made aware of the allegations in March 2014, and that several key members of the athletic department—including Krzyzewski, several assistant coaches, and athletic director Kevin White—found out shortly thereafter.
At a press conference, Krzyzewski declined to comment on the Chronicle article. But here are three reasons why this particular story won't be going away anytime soon:
Slow response: Neither woman filed a complaint with the university or went to the local police in part due to "the fear of backlash from the Duke fan base," according to the Chronicle. Nonetheless, the allegations reportedly were brought to the coaching staff shortly after the second incident was disclosed. According to the Chronicle, most Duke employees are required to report sexual assault; under Title IX, the university must investigate any such allegations. "Nothing happened after months and months of talking about [the sexual assault allegations]," an anonymous source told the newspaper. "The University administration knew."
It's Duke, and Coach K: It has been nearly nine years since the Duke lacrosse rape case, which fell apart after months of intense scrutiny and media attention. Given the prominence of Krzyzewski and his program—he has the most wins of any Division I men's coach in history, and the Blue Devils are ranked No. 3 in the country—this story could gain a lot more traction as March Madness nears. Sulaimon was the first player Krzyzewski has dismissed in his 35 years at Duke; here's how the coach described the decision in a January 29 press release: "Rasheed has been unable to consistently live up to the standards required to be a member of our program. It is a privilege to represent Duke University and with that privilege comes the responsibility to conduct oneself in a certain manner. After Rasheed repeatedly struggled to meet the necessary obligations, it became apparent that it was time to dismiss him from the program."
It's yet another sexual-assault accusation against a college athlete: The Sulaimon story comes just days after a former Louisville University basketball player was charged with rape and sodomy. On January 27, two former Vanderbilt University football players were convicted on multiple counts of sexual battery and aggravated rape, a case dissected in a Sports Illustrated feature last month. And in another highly publicized recent case, Jameis Winston, Florida State University's Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback and the likely No. 1 pick in the upcoming NFL draft, was accused but never charged of raping a fellow student. (The school recently cleared Winston of violating its code of conduct.)
UPDATE, March 4, 2014: In a statement released yesterday to the Sporting News, Duke athletic director Kevin White had this to say about how Krzyzewski and the athletic department handled the Sulaimon situation:
Any allegation of student misconduct that is brought to the attention of our staff and coaches is immediately referred to the Office of Student Conduct in Student Affairs, which has responsibility for upholding the Duke code of conduct. The athletics department does not investigate or adjudicate matters of student conduct, and cooperates completely in the process…
These investigations are conducted thoroughly, in a timely manner, and with great care to respect the privacy and confidentiality of all students involved. Those procedures have been, and continue to be, followed by Coach Mike Krzyzewski and all members of the men's basketball program. Coach Krzyzewski and his staff understand and have fulfilled their responsibilities to the university, its students and the community.
For more on Duke's legal footing with regard to how much information it needs to share with the media, read Michael McCann's latest at Sports Illustrated.
A child arrives at a government-run child migrant shelter in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, after being deported from Mexico.
In October 2013, I traveled to Guatemala's western highlands to report on the surge of children migrating from Central America to the United States. The largely indigenous region was more or less unchanged from when I'd lived in a village near the Guatemala-Mexico border in 2006, or when I'd returned to do graduate work there in 2009: It was poor, susceptible to natural disasters, and full of families with relatives living in the United States.
Photographer Katie Orlinsky visited many of the same places that I did, and her evocative work from Guatemala City and Quetzaltenango, the unofficial capital of the highlands, illuminates the poverty that continues to push children and families north. Recent data suggests that while far fewer Hondurans and Salvadorans have been arriving at the US border, the number of Guatemalans has dipped only slightly. As one Guatemalan migrant shelter official told Orlinsky, "Children do not migrate—they flee."
A young boy gathers wood in Quetzaltenango. The area has one of the highest levels of child migration in the country. Many of the children are economic refugees. In addition, a large population of Guatemalans from the area are already living in the United States and Mexico.
Paula (right) does not go to school and instead works washing clothing with female family members in the town of Los Duraznales.
A bus in Los Duraznales
A 16-year-old child migrant stands outside a government-run shelter in Quetzaltenango. The teenager was caught by the Mexican authorities and deported a day earlier. She was on her way to Ohio to meet her mother, who left 12 years ago.
A bus leaves for the Guatemala-Mexico border from the bus terminal in the largest market in Guatemala City.
A four-year-old stands outside her home in Quetzaltenango with her aunts. Along with her mother, she attempted to migrate to the United States, but they were caught in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico. Family members say they were imprisoned and abused before being deported back to Guatemala. The girl's mother continues to be unable to eat or speak after the experience.
The Alonso Lorenzo sisters, from left to right: Romina, 12, Alysa Karina, 16, and Isabel, 8, in Concepción Chiquirichapa. The sisters are orphans; their 14-year-old sister recently migrated to the United States, where she works to help support them. They currently live with their aunt in a cramped two-room home. All three sisters hope to migrate to the United States as soon as they can.
Romina Alonso Lorenzo, 12, washes dishes at her aunt's home in Concepción Chiquirichapa.
Romina and Isabel
Alysa Karina, 16, prepares atole at her aunt's home. She does not attend school.
The youngest Alonso Lorenzo sisters attend the Escuela Oficial Rural Mixta al Telena. Nearly half of the school's students have family in the United States.
Romina at school
Many students miss days or months of school in order to work. It is common to see children of varied ages in the same grade.
A girl studies against a wall in Guatemala City. Gangs and violence are one of the leading causes for child migration from Guatemala.
Jonathan, 13, works in a Guatemala City cemetery cutting and arranging flowers. He says he goes to school in the afternoons.
Thirteen-year-old Adonias sells garlic at the largest market in Guatemala City.
As Mother Jones' copy editor, I used to read the long, narrative features written by our former human rights reporter, Mac McClelland, many times over before they appeared in the magazine. They often wore me out, grammatically and emotionally, in the way that only intense work on difficult subjects can.
In her second book, Irritable Hearts:A PTSD Love Story (out February 24), McClelland returns to terrain she has covered before to great acclaim and great criticism: herself—specifically, her battle with PTSD following a reporting trip to post-earthquake Haiti in 2010. She unsparingly recounts her struggles to cope with the lingering effects of trauma: nightmares, sobbing fits, alcoholism. McClelland weaves these details into the telling of her own unexpected love story, the charming and jagged particulars of which left me, by the book's end, expectedly exhausted.
I recently spoke by phone with McClelland about how our knowledge of post-traumatic stress is evolving, what shocked her most about dealing with trauma, and how to define a badass:
Mother Jones: Was the topic of PTSD on your radar at all before the first Haiti trip? Was it something you thought about a lot?
Mac McClelland: I was familiar with it as a concept pretty much exclusively with respect to veterans, and that is the sum total of my experience with the topic. I definitely hadn't read any books. I probably read like one pretty famous, or maybe two, famous features about PTSD, some big ones that came out around 2003 or something. But other than that, I had nothing.
It was right around this time last year that sources in South Texas began telling me that an expected surge of unaccompanied child migrants was going to be much larger than previously anticipated. They were right: The number of kids crossing the US-Mexico border skyrocketed in 2014, and the border crisis was soon front-page news. But the numbers have been dropping since last fall, and according to new projections, they're on pace to recede even further in 2015.
According to projections from the think tank Washington Office on Latin America, around 41,000 child migrants traveling alone will be caught by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in the 2015 fiscal year, a 39 percent decrease from last year. WOLA's data also suggests that border agents will nab more than 56,000 migrant families (typically a mother traveling with children), a 16 percent drop from 2014.
The number of apprehensions is proportional to the number of people crossing the border.The predictions are extrapolated from CBP data and seasonal migration trends. Adam Isacson, WOLA's senior associate for regional security policy, acknowledged that the numbers are "very tentative" and that the sample sizes were small, but that 2015 is still on pace to see the second-biggest influx ever of kids traveling alone.
What accounts for these projected decreases in the two groups of migrants that made up last year's border crunch? After all, things haven't gotten any better in Central America's so-called Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras). "The situation in Central America hasn't changed in the last six months," says Maureen Meyer, WOLA's senior associate for Mexico and migrant rights. "So you're going to certainly see people fleeing their homes out of desperation and migrants continuing to be willing to run the gauntlet of risk they could face in Mexico, because they figure the risk is worth it if you could die in your home the next day anyway."
CBP has trumpeted the anti-migration ad campaign it ran last year, but few experts believe it had much impact. Instead, they argue, the decline in migrants can be attributed to the increasing difficulty of making the roughly1,500-mile journey from Central America through Mexico. In July, for example, Mexican officials closed off access to La Bestia (the Beast), the freight train that runs from southern Mexico to the US border. Migrants often sneaked rides on La Bestia because they didn't have the money to pay smugglers. Keeping them off the train has made the journey north more expensive and potentially more dangerous: A recent article in Mexico's El Universal newspaper detailed how migrants are walking increasingly risky routes or taking $250 boat rides to avoid detection in the southern states of Chiapas and Oaxaca.
Shutting down La Bestia was just part of Mexico's new crackdown on Central American migrants. Earlier last summer, President Enrique Peña Nieto announced an initiative called Programa Frontera Sur (Southern Border Program) to address the country's porous border with Guatemala. Meyer says that while the particulars of this plan are still vague, migrant shelter workers in southern Mexico have reported seeing more immigration agents patrolling the region and cracking down on safe houses for migrants.
"We won't see those images again of kids backed up at the border, but that doesn't mean there's no crisis in Central America anymore."
The Mexican government reports that it deported some 104,000 people to the Northern Trianglelast year, a 34 percent increase from 2013. (Given the poor conditions in Mexico's immigration detention centers, Meyer says many detained migrants choose deportation and another shot at heading north.) The uptick has troubled immigrant advocates, who worry that Mexico isn't applying its generous refugee and humanitarian aid laws—and is turning around Central American migrants without regard for their safety in their home countries."That's our biggest area of concern," said Jennifer Podkul of the Women's Refugee Commission. "Are they returning legitimate refugee seekers—people seeking asylum—before they even get here?"
In a January 6 meeting with Peña Nieto in Washington, President Obama praised Mexico's efforts along its border with Guatemala. US officials have repeatedly stressed that border's strategic importance; several years ago, border czar Alan Bersin said, "The Guatemalan border with Chiapas is now our southern border." The White House's 2016 foreign aid budget request earmarks money for bolstering Mexican border enforcement.
Along the US-Mexico border, the feds are intent on avoiding a repeat of last year's border catastrophe, including those visuals of little kids piled together beneath space blankets in fenced-off warehouses. Meghan Johnson, the managing attorney at the ProBAR Children's Project, the American Bar Association's pro bono legal defense program in Texas' Rio Grande Valley, says that federal shelters for unaccompanied minors are currently at 30 percent capacity and that officials are bracing for an influx of kids in the late spring and early summer. The federal government has streamlined its process for getting detained kids out of Border Patrol holding facilities, and now there are two large processing facilities to temporarily hold child migrants before they are placed in shelters or reunified with their families in the states. And Immigration and Customs Enforcement just opened its largest-ever detention facility, in Dilley, Texas, which will only hold "family-unit" detainees, i.e., mothers traveling with their children. (For more, read the New York Times Magazine's recent cover story on family detention.)
Two weeks ago, in a New York Times op-ed announcing the White House's $1 billion aid proposal for El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, Vice President Joe Biden wrote that "if the political will exists, there is no reason Central America cannot become the next great success story of the Western Hemisphere." In the meantime, it appears the issues that sparked last year's border surge—gang violence, abject poverty, regional instability—will continue to force tens of thousands of unaccompanied children and families to seek refuge in the United States this year.
Still, now that the numbers have dropped from their historic highs last year, it's a good bet that the kids and families won't make headlines anytime soon. "We won't see those images again of kids backed up at the border," Podkul says, "but that doesn't mean there's no crisis in Central America anymore."
Clarification: A previous version of this article suggested that the Office of Refugee Resettlement ran the two border processing facilities, which are run by CBP.