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At the center of many human rights crises are the companies willing to profit off the suffering of others. ERI has been using the power of people and the power of law to hold U.S. companies accountable for their participation and profiteering in human rights crises in countries like Myanmar (Burma) and Colombia for decades. But what if the crisis is right here in the United States?  

When the Trump Administration decided to rip families apart and intern children away from their parents, private corporations supply government agencies with the goods and services needed to execute these cruel policies that harm families and destroy lives.

As the Border Patrol tears children away from their mothers and fathers, as ICE locks them up, and as law enforcement places them on buses and planes across the country, private companies not only enable this to happen, they profit from it.

Contractors procured the tents the children live in in. Suppliers sold the foil blankets they sleep under. U.S. airlines might , knowingly or not, have allowed these children to board and be taken hundreds of miles away from those that love them the most.

Despite Trump’s new executive order, we expect anti-immigrant  policies to continue. It is not clear whether or when these detained children will be reunited with their parents, and even those that are will likely end up living in similarly harsh family detention camps.

In an environment where we cannot trust our government, powerful corporations should take a stand against unjust laws and actions. In fact, over the past few years many companies have done just that.

  • When North Carolina passed a transphobic “bathroom bill,” many companies denounced the law and some even cancelled events and business expansion plans in the state
  • As the country moves away from the barbaric use of the death penalty, pharmaceutical companies have prevented states from purchasing the drugs used in lethal cocktails; and
  • When the U.S. Congress refused to take action on guns, companies like Dick Sporting Goods announced plans to stop selling assault rifles and Delta cut ties with the National Rifle Association.


Companies should start using their power for good.

Already, major U.S. airlines including American, Frontier, United, and Southwest have all issued statements that they will not fly immigrant children separated from their parents on behalf of the federal government.

Holding corporations accountable for human rights violations is at the core of what EarthRights International (ERI) does. It doesn’t matter if a company hired terrorist groups to provide security to carry out the dirty work or if an international financial institution turned a blind eye to the environmental degradation and human health hazards of a project they financed, corporate entities must be held to account for the decisions made in their board rooms, for the contracts they signs, and the investments they make.

This is why ERI works day in and day out to build accountability mechanisms and strengthen the rule of law where corporation actions are concerned. We are training the next generation of earth rights defenders in Southeast Asia, building the campaigns to stop harmful dams on rivers in South America, and we’re taking the World Bank to the Supreme Court!  

Our goal is to stop corporations from committing environmental and human rights abuses and ensure they are held to account when they do.

One way to do this is to lift up our voices. In the age of the internet and social media, the power of people only grows and we can and should use these tools to amplify our demands that corporations not only shouldn’t profit off human pain, but can actually be leaders in a world where our elected leaders are not.

Ask the corporations who stand to gain from Trump’s cruel immigration policy to join the others who have spoken against it. Contact your elected officials. Attend a march or rally on June 30th to show the world that there is power in the voices of people and we have strength in numbers.

Together, we can hold the most powerful to account. Together, we can ask corporations to be better, to do better. Together, we can make this world safer and more welcoming for all children and families. That is the power of people.

Photo CC Patrick Feller