A New Protected Class – Climate Refugees

Jennifer G. Hickey, Immigration Reform
Despite a record number of illegal alien apprehensions at the southern border in fiscal year 2019, Democrats have unveiled a plan to admit a minimum of 50,000 “environmental migrants” every year beginning in 2020. In short, the proposal being pushed by Rep. Lydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) is the ugly stepchild of the Dream Act and the New Green Deal.

“America will continue to stand tall as a safe haven for immigrants,” said Velázquez of the Climate Displaced Person’s Act of 2019, which would create a new protected status for so-called climate displaced persons (CDPs) that would be separate from existing U.S. refugee admissions programs.

She also claims the bill is a reaffirmation of the nation’s “longstanding role as a home to those fleeing conflict and disasters,” but also updates our role “to reflect changes to our world brought on by a changing climate.”

Velázquez’s measure comes almost a month after Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) introduced a similarly ill-conceived bill to kill two special interest birds – mass amnesty advocates and radical environmentalists – with one stone.

What is most notable about this proposal is that it sets the minimum number of admittances at 50,000, which is a significant number alone in historical terms. Between fiscal years 2008 to 2017, the average number of refugees admitted into the U.S. was 67,100. If the U.S. took in the minimum number of so-called climate refugees, it would almost double our annual intake.

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But, the lawmakers predict a significantly higher number since they cite data from International Organization for Migration (IOM) that suggests by 2050 there could be as many as 200 million individuals who might be included in their new protected class.

There are numerous flaws with the proposal, including the fact that more than 1.2 million Americans were forced from their homes as a result of natural disasters in 2017 alone. Before we open our borders, shouldn’t lawmakers concentrate on resettling citizens from FEMA trailers into new homes?

Second, why isn’t Temporary Protected Status (TPS) sufficient to handle those who are unable to return to their homelands due to natural disasters? There are presently 417,000 foreign nationals already in the U.S. under TPS, which is itself reason not to create a new program since it is slowly morphing into a quasi-amnesty for many.

Third, neither U.S. law nor international law even recognize so-called climate refugees, climate migrants or CDPs. The United Nations even concedes that the term climate refugee “does not exist in international law.”

As Dina Ionesco, who heads the IOM’s Migration, Environment and Climate Change Division, argued in an article opposing such a classification, advocates fail “to recognize a number of key aspects that define human mobility in the context of climate change and environmental degradation.”

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She notes that most people moving as a consequence of natural disasters or severe weather migrate internally. Furthermore, Ionesco points out that most migration remains “a matter of choice,” so the focus should be on managing migration, “rather than refugee protection.”

Furthermore, refugee status is granted in most countries when it is proven that serious harm or risk of persecution will come if someone remains in their country. In 2015, Ioane Teitiota tried to claim refugee status based on climate change occurring in his native Pacific Island home of Kiribati, but was denied by New Zealand’s Immigration and Protection Tribunal. The denial, in part, was due to the fact that climate change was a factor, but that infrastructure, population growth and other aspects contributed to the rising waters he said forced him to leave.

While there is no serious threat of either bill becoming law, the lawmakers’ proposals unmask their and their supporters’ true agenda – to open the door to as many immigrants as they possible can.