White House Report Claims Climate Change Causing Mass Migration, Activists Call for U.S. ‘Humanitarian Visas’

Image Credits: David McNew/Getty Images.

President Joe Biden’s administration released a report this month that claims climate change is causing the mass migration of people being forced from their homes and communities.

Activists are already responding to the report by calling on the United States to issue “humanitarian visas” to allow these migrants to have refugee status to “temporarily” reside in the country.

The “Report on the Impact of Climate Change on Migration,” says, in part:

Extreme weather events and conflict are the top two drivers of forced displacement globally, together responsible for the annual movement of nearly 30 million people from their homes. There is a strong correlation between countries and regions most vulnerable to climate change and those that are fragile and/or experiencing conflict or violence. Climate-related impacts may further stress vulnerable communities, increasing the risk of conflict and displacement in the absence of effective prevention efforts, and vice versa. Climate-related impacts also pose an increased risk to marginalized communities displaced by conflict related to the impacts of climate change. This risk is more acute in regions with weak governance and dispute resolution infrastructure, and in growing peri-urban areas where many migrants are heading.

The report argues for increased numbers of immigrants being allowed to come into the United States and makes no distinction between legal and illegal immigration:

Large migration flows are frequently framed as a threat to both domestic and international stability and social cohesion. Inadequate policy frameworks to manage large migration flows may exacerbate resource inequalities, stress public budgets, and contribute to xenophobia that increases political tensions. Anti-immigration political actors may seize on both real and perceived challenges of uncontrolled or large migration flows to improve political standing, inflaming existing tensions and undermining efforts to appropriately respond to acute migration or refugee crises, such as those caused by the Syrian civil war or extreme weather and violence in Central America.21 These risks highlight the importance of considering not only those who move following a climatic shock, but communities receiving higher rates of in-migration.

Surging irregular migration flows to the United States have increased domestic attention on the politics of immigration, and climate change has the potential to compound related political and social challenges by causing additional displacement. The lack of bipartisan agreement on humane border procedures and immigration polices complicates U.S. efforts to mobilize global support for protecting refugees, asylum seekers, and other vulnerable migrants. The current migration situation extending from the U.S.-Mexico border into Central America presents an opportunity for the United States to model good practice and discuss openly managing migration humanely, highlight the role of climate change in migration, and collaborate with other governments to address these challenges.

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