The BorderLine: Climate Change Is Not Responsible for Mass Migration

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The BorderLine is a weekly Daily Signal feature examining everything from the unprecedented illegal immigration crisis at the border to immigration’s impact on cities and states throughout the land. We will also shed light on other critical border-related issues like human trafficking, drug smuggling, terrorism, and more.

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To avoid admitting that President Joe Biden’s own policies are responsible for mass illegal migration, his administration is keen to implicate “climate change” as the root cause instead. Biden has done everything in his power to facilitate unlimited immigration, from setting up overseas “Safe Mobility Offices” to encouraging asylum claims to inventing “lawful pathways” that are really unlawful, using mass immigration parole to bypass requiring a visa for entry into the country. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas has shifted all available resources from deterring illegal aliens to instead bringing them into the country.

By releasing thousands of illegal aliens at the border daily and fostering nearly unlimited asylum applications, the Biden administration adds to court backlogs already so long that aliens have de facto amnesty. The small percentage of asylum cases that eventually qualify have been buried by fraudulent and spurious ones. This is all by design. But the Biden administration is hoping to distract from this dismal record by blaming the whole thing on climate change.

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The White House’s “Report on the Impact of Climate Change on Migration” declares “the United States will need to strengthen the application of existing protection frameworks, adjust U.S. protection mechanisms to better accommodate people fleeing the impacts of climate change, and evaluate the need for additional legal protections for those who have no alternative but to migrate.”

That word salad could mean more bogus immigration parole programs and including climate change in the criteria for granting asylum.

But blaming illegal mass migration on warmer weather is politics, not science. Linking small changes in annual planetary average temperatures to specific weather patterns is difficult. Blaming weather for individual decisions to illegally come to the United States—often through several safe countries on the way—is not credible.

A recent Migration Policy Institute report notes that “[e]nvironmental issues are generally minor factors in people’s migration decisions, typically far behind economic imperatives, even in highly climate-affected countries.” A report by the Dialogue cites “political crises, economic insecurity, violence, weak social protection systems, COVID-19 contagion, low vaccination rates, and natural disasters” as “factors explaining current migration.” It concludes that “overall, aspirational or poor material conditions in the homeland is an important common denominator.”

And a new report by The Heritage Foundation, “Powering Human Advancement: Why the World Needs Affordable and Reliable Energy,” concludes that a lack of fossil fuel energy in some countries promotes immigration to countries that have the advantages of fossil fuels:

A lack of affordable and reliable energy is associated with a lack of access to clean water, adequate medical care, affordable transportation, and economic opportunities, all of which stall human advancement, especially in the most vulnerable countries. Energy, in all its diverse forms, should be harnessed by all societies—because high-income societies are also high-energy societies.

(The Daily Signal is Heritage’s news and commentary outlet.)

In other words, when illegal aliens select the U.S. as their destination, their main reason is to leave poverty and look for a better life either through finding a job or relying on America’s social safety net.

Under U.S. immigration law, being poor or wanting a better job don’t qualify an alien for asylum. To be eligible, applicants have to prove that if returned home, they would be persecuted on the basis of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. The “particular social group” category, already too broad, was expanded beyond reason by Biden administration guidance to the government staff who decide asylum cases. With the system already overburdened, activists now want to expand the asylum criteria even further.

The New York Times recently reported on the Miskito people of Honduras. Historically poor, subject to hurricanes, and now beset by drug cartels, some of them picked up and left. They didn’t relocate within Honduras or go to the nearest safe countries—Mexico or Guatemala—but trekked 2,500 miles north to the United States. Drawn by Biden’s open border, they now plan to claim asylum based on “extreme weather wrought by climate change,” helped by the National Immigration Project.

But the reality is that America is not to blame for their plight. U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have been falling. This is not because of Biden’s massive subsidies to renewable energy and electric vehicles; it’s the fruit of improved technology and investment by the private sector, as well as the conversion to cleaner natural gas.

In Europe, Germany and Britain are crippling their economies and sticking their populations with huge increases in energy costs in the pursuit of lower emissions. Meanwhile, China is building a coal-fired power plant every two weeks and continues to increase emissions year over year. India isn’t far behind.

This doesn’t stop the global Left from using climate change as an irrefutable catchall cause for illegal immigration, for which they blame only the developed world. Beijing wins again as mass migration based on fraud only targets desirable countries like the U.S. Other than maybe North Koreans, no one is lining up to get into China.  

The plight of the Miskito, and of hundreds of millions of people across this crowded planet, can inspire our sympathy and aid, but it is not grounds for asylum. If we wish to remain a stable and prosperous society in an uncertain world, it can never be grounds for asylum.

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change claims that “[p]rojected population displacements by 2050 in Central and South America, sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia due to climate change, rang[e] from 31 million to 143 million people.”  To call that range “ballpark” would be generous, but there is no doubt that millions will continue to migrate, for various reasons, in the future. That doesn’t make it the duty of every desirable country on earth to surrender control over its borders, identity, and destiny in response.

Who comes to the United States, how many, and where from is a decision for American voters, not for globalist climate crusaders.

The U.S. should offer our expertise and example to help countries overcome the challenges of a changing planet, but we can’t be the world’s default refuge.

Our current asylum system was designed for the 1950s, with the fresh memory of Jews fleeing Nazi extermination and dissidents fleeing communist tyranny. This humanitarian program was not intended for, and it has been destroyed by, mass migration for largely economic reasons. The result is engendering political pushback across the developed world. The U.S. needs to rethink the Refugee Act of 1980, which defines who qualifies for asylum. Climate change should be explicitly excluded, and the “particular social group” category eliminated or, at the very least, tightly restricted.

Under the Biden administration, it doesn’t really matter to the Miskito or other asylum claimants how unsound the basis of their claim is. They’ll be allowed to remain in the United States and work while they wait out a many-years-long court process. That’s ridiculous, and it’s why, in May of this year, the House of Representatives passed needed reform of the asylum criteria that would require people to wait for their asylum decision outside the U.S.

In the national interest, the Senate and Biden should accept these necessary reforms and abandon the canard that climate change justifies the president’s failed immigration policies.

Read Other BorderLine Columns:

Biden Prefers to Put Your Safety at Risk and Play Recidivism Roulette With Criminal Aliens

Memo from McAllen—A Look Inside the Mayorkas Migration Machine

Will Biden Going Soft on Venezuelan Dictator Lead to Increase in Immigrants to US?

Senate Hearing Shows—Again—Why Mayorkas Should Be Impeached

New York’s ‘Right to Shelter’—Why Are Taxpayers Forced to House Unlimited Illegal Aliens?

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