Yearning - and Sometimes Dying - To Breathe Free

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A group of four self-described "everyday people" unfurled a massive banner across the foot of Lady Liberty Tuesday declaring Refugees Welcome - an act and sentiment, immeasurably ironically, controversial enough in these xenophobic, dystopian times that park officials are now seeking the "suspects." One of the still-unnamed perpetrators, a descendant of immigrants and refugees, said they took the action to show that Trump's immigration paranoia represents "the opposite (of) America at its best." While their action was celebrated under the hashtag AltStatLiberty, they are part of no organized group except "people stepping up and saying things that need to be said...Immigrants are what make this country great."

The day before, meanwhile, the bodies of at least 74 refugees from sub-Saharan Africa who had been trying to reach Europe washed up on the western Libyan shore, evidently after the engine of their inflatable raft was stolen. Members of Libya's Red Crescent worked to gather the record number of bodies, the latest of over 4,500 casualties in 2016 as the EU seeks to tighten its borders and limit the influx of refugees with nowhere else to turn. Human rights groups, who have warned those efforts will prove deadly, insist the cruel closing of doors will not stop people from fleeing war and terror and unlivable lives; each of Monday's deaths, they charge, was tragic, preventable and "a testament to our indifference." 

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