Quantcast
Politics
Children detained at a facility in McAllen, Texas under Trump's "zero tolerance" immigration policy. U.S. Customs and Border Control

Trump Penalizes Migrants Fleeing Climate Crisis He Ignores

The impacts of climate change do not respect international borders. If they did, it wouldn't be the case that the countries who have done the least to contribute to global carbon dioxide emissions are expected to suffer disproportionately from their effects.

But as climate refugees begin to flee deteriorating conditions, they are already finding that borders very much apply to them.


Many of the immigrants being detained at the southern U.S. border under President Donald Trump's "zero tolerance" immigration policy are fleeing food scarcity brought on by climate change, The Daily Beast reported Thursday.

"We're seeing a new level of desperation," University of Colorado Boulder sociology professor Carrie Seay-Fleming told The Daily Beast. "When you might have seen an adult male leave before their family follows, you see, increasingly, entire families leaving in waves."

Many of those families come from the Northern Triangle of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, where, beginning in 2015, an especially extreme El Niño / La Niña cycle has led to severe drought followed by heavy rainfall, reducing harvests by up to 90 percent and leaving 30 percent of the population food insecure, a UN study found.

"What we're talking about here are changing precipitation patterns," American University Center for Latin American and Latino Studies associate professor Robert Albro told The Daily Beast. "Climate scientists have observed that climate change is exacerbating El Niño and La Niña, so we see radically changing seasonal patterns."

The impacts of these changing patterns are especially harmful to the region because farmers there rely heavily on coffee for cash and maize for subsistence, and neither are resilient in the face of weather that is either too dry or too wet.

Climate causes have been lost in a media narrative about migration that focuses on families or unaccompanied minors fleeing gang or drug related violence, but Seay-Fleming told The Daily Beast that the violence narrative was over-simplified. She said most current migrants crossing the Mexican border are from Guatemala, where economic insecurity is a greater driver of migration than violence, which is more often cited as a motivating factor by those from El Salvador and Honduras.

"Guatemala has the highest poverty rate and the highest food insecurity. It's seeing rates of food insecurity that have never been seen before," Seay-Fleming said.

Both Seay-Fleming and Albro agreed that violence and climate migration were connected, as farmers would first migrate to cities when crops failed, and then be driven north by a lack of opportunity and urban violence. This means they don't always mention environmental factors when asked their reasons for coming to the U.S.

The climate connection adds an extra barb to the cruelty of Trump's hardline immigration policy that, beginning in April, mandated criminally prosecuting migrants crossing the border and separating children from their parents. After public outcry, an executive order signed Wednesday said parents and children would be detained together, but it may still result in family separations, since children can only legally be detained in the U.S. for 20 days, CNN reported.

Since many of the families caught up in these policies are fleeing climate change, it means that they are being doubly punished for a problem the president has washed his hands of, through actions such as withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris agreement.

The policy also sets a troubling precedent for how the U.S. may deal with even greater climate migrations to come, as Kate Aronoff points out in a piece for In these Times. She cited a 2010 study that estimated that climate change could cause up to 6.7 million people from Mexico alone to migrate elsewhere. Overall, she wrote, scientists estimate that climate change could displace between 25 million and one billion people in the coming decades.

"This week's onslaught of immigration news offers a chilling preview of events that could become all the more likely as the planet warms. At the core of the immigration debate is the question that will come to dominate the climate-defined politics of the 21st century: Who gets to live here and live well?" Aronoff wrote.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Insights/Opinion
Pexels

Tackling Climate Change Requires Healing the Divide

Canadian climate change opinion is polarized, and research shows the divide is widening. The greatest predictor of people's outlook is political affiliation. This means people's climate change perceptions are being increasingly driven by divisive political agendas rather than science and concern for our collective welfare.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Westend61 / Getty Images

EcoWatch Gratitude Photo Contest: Submit Now!

EcoWatch is pleased to announce its first photo contest! Show us what in nature you are most thankful for this Thanksgiving. Whether you have a love for oceans, animals, or parks, we want to see your best photos that capture what you love about this planet.

Keep reading... Show less
Food
Pexels

10 Chefs Bringing Forgotten Grains Back to Life

Millets are a staple crop for tens of millions of people throughout Asia and Africa. Known as Smart Food, millets are gluten-free, and an excellent source of protein, calcium, iron, zinc and dietary fiber. They can also be a better choice for farmers and the planet, requiring 30 percent less water than maize, 70 percent less water than rice, and can be grown with fewer expensive inputs, demanding little or no fertilizers and pesticides.

Keep reading... Show less
Adventure
Háifoss waterfall is situated near the volcano Hekla in the south of Iceland. FEBRUARY / Getty Images

The Essential Guide to Eco-Friendly Travel

By Meredith Rosenberg

Between gas-guzzling flights, high-pollution cruise ships and energy-consuming hotels, travel takes a huge toll on the environment. Whether for business or vacation, for many people it's not realistic to simply stop traveling. So what's the solution? There are actually numerous ways to become more eco-conscious while traveling, which can be implemented with these expert tips.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Animals
Freder / E+ / Getty Images

Surprising Study: Orangutans Are Only Non-Human Primates Who Can 'Talk' About the Past

We already know that orangutans are some of the smartest land animals on Earth. Now, researchers have found evidence that these amazing apes can communicate about past events—the first time this trait has been observed in a non-human primate.

A new study published in the journal Science Advances revealed that when wild Sumatran orangutan mothers spotted a predator, they suppressed their alarm calls to others until the threat was no longer there.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Suicide rates are highest for males in construction and extraction; females in arts, design, entertainment, sports and media, the CDC found. Michelllaurence / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

CDC: Suicide Rate Among U.S. Workers Increasing

From 2000 to 2016, the suicide rate among American workers has increased 34 percent, up 12.9 per 100,000 working persons to 17.3, according to a worrisome new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Workers with the highest suicide rates have construction, mining and drilling jobs, the U.S. health officials reported Thursday.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Energy
PG&E received a maximum sentence for the 2010 San Bruno natural gas pipeline explosion. Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Report: 90% of Pipeline Blasts Draw No Financial Penalties

A striking report has revealed that 90 percent of the 137 interstate pipeline fires or explosions since 2010 have drawn no financial penalties for the companies responsible.

The article from E&E News reporter Mike Soraghan underscores the federal Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration's (PHMSA) weak authority over the fossil fuel industry for these disasters.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Nevada Test and Training Range. U.S. Air Force / Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum

U.S. Navy Proposes Massive Land Grab to Test Bombs

Friday the U.S. Navy released details of a plan to seize more than 600,000 acres of public land in central Nevada to expand a bombing range. The land under threat includes rich habitat for mule deer, important desert springs and nesting sites for raptors like golden eagles.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!