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Global Warming and Immigration

| Feb 8, 2024 | Firm News

The dire news of the severe California drought has got me wondering what the future holds for our state.  Will Californians become refugees in other states?  It may sound farfetched now, but at this rate, we are going to become the next Oklahoma dust bowl or go through the crisis that Sao Paulo is going through.  I keep wondering if a move to the Pacific Northwest or Colorado is in order.  Or Canada.

There is, of course, a global warming crisis, which could lead to mass migrations of people.  For example, the rising sea levels in Bangladesh are causing increased drought and cyclones.  There is a devastating drought in Sao Paulo, Brazil, caused by destruction of the Amazon and global warming. There is a deleterious effect on the ocean and those countries who rely heavily on seafood.  Additionally, there are mega storms, such as Typhoon Haiyan and Katrina.

The question becomes, what happens to the people affected by climate change and who will be affected in increasing numbers?  The tropics will bear the brunt of global warming change.  It is already happening in countries like the Philippines.  In modern meteorological records, the deadliest storm was Typhoon Haiyan, which became the strongest landfalling tropical cyclone ever recorded as it crossed the Central Philippines on November 7-8, 2013.  After the devastation of that typhoon, there was discussion of potential TPS designation for the Philippines, which then stalled.  That issue, and the politics of becoming a designated country is probably the subject of its own article.

The Secretary of Homeland Security to designate a country for  Temporary protected Status (TPS) in the event of an environmental disaster (such as an earthquake or hurricane).  Conditions in designated countries may temporarily prevent the country’s nationals from returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of nationals adequately.  USCIS may grant TPS to eligible nationals of certain countries (or parts of countries, who are already in the U.S.  A grant of TPS allows individuals to be granted work and travel authorization, and not be removed from the U.S.

Other than TPS, there are no mechanisms in place to accept large groups of people in times of national disasters.  Political asylum is not designed for generalized country conditions.  Humanitarian parole is rarely exercised.  Private bills are not designed for national disasters.  Executive orders may work, but are controversial.  While this is not a current crisis, in 20 to 30 years it will be extreme unless steps are taken now.  So far, climate change is not being taken seriously by the state and federal governments, with California still losing its water to plant almond trees to export almonds to China, and Oklahoma senators throwing snow balls in the senate to deny global warming.  If only we could be like Costa Rica, which is running on renewable energy.  After all, instead of welcoming (or not welcoming) the huddled masses, U.S. citizens may be the ones who become refugees.

By Grace Alano.  Grace Alano is an immigration attorney at Alano Immigration in San Francisco, CA. Find Grace Alano on Google+