House Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene appeared to imply Tuesday that migrants should not seek relocation in the United States due to the nation’s issues caused by climate change, even as countless studies show that migrants are escaping treacherous situations in their home countries.
Greene made the comments during a House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border Security and Enforcement hearing examining the Biden administration’s failure to prepare for the expiration of Title 42 on May 11. It has been nearly a month since the COVID-era policy, originally enacted by the Trump administration, concluded and has drawn closer attention due to warnings preceding its lifting.
“Natural disasters, talk about climate change,” Greene said. “This is the fourth largest country in the world. We have an extremely diverse climate; we have a wide range of natural disasters—97 natural disasters occurred in 2021. I don’t think this is very safe for migrants here in America. How many are they having in their country?”
She mentioned wildfires, heat waves, droughts, flash floods, winter storms and tropical cyclones.
“But yet they need to come to our country because of climate change?” she added. “That doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
Newsweek reached out via email to Greene’s office for comment.
Are Migrants Crossing Because of Climate Change?
While there’s not much data provided on which specific reasons migrants flee their home country (other than the generalized political, economic, and social hardships), there has been some uptick in those who cross claiming climate change or natural disasters as their reasoning.
In 2021, a Honduran doctor spoke with CNN about what his country faced after two back-to-back hurricanes and why he thought it spurred immigration, saying, “So much famine is coming because the last harvest was lost. There is no capacity to store anything. Prices were already skyrocketing…Prepare for the waves.”
Around the same time, flooding took out entire communities in Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala.
Where Are Immigrants Coming From?
Mexicans represent the largest group of documented U.S. immigrants, making up 24 percent of the total immigrant population in 2021—down from 30 percent in the year 2000, according to the Migration Policy Institute. India and China (6 and 5 percent, respectively) were the next two largest sending countries, followed by the Philippines (4 percent); El Salvador, Vietnam, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic (each 3 percent); and Guatemala and Korea (each 2 percent).
A Department of Homeland Security report from 2021 estimated that the top six countries of origin for undocumented immigrants were Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, India, Honduras and China.
Climate Change in Mexico
The Climate Reality Project, founded by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, wrote in 2018 that Mexico’s three biggest climate change-related issues are rising temperatures, water security and droughts, and agriculture.
The country is predicted to experience a climbing of temperatures by 1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius by the end of this century, further straining water supplies and food securities—leading to a 40 to 70 percent decline in Mexico’s current cropland suitability by 2030, and in the range of 80 to 100 percent by century’s end.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) states that Mexico is the second-largest greenhouse gas emitter in Latin America and the Caribbean, with its energy sector accounting for over 70 percent of total emissions. The country’s agricultural and livestock sectors account for an additional 14 percent of emissions.
“Mexico’s geography makes it vulnerable to extreme weather events, such as tropical cyclones and floods, that threaten the country’s aging transportation, power and water infrastructure,” USAID notes. “Mexico’s important coastal tourism hubs are at risk from the effects of climate change. In rural areas, where small-scale producers earn a large proportion of their income from agriculture, extreme temperatures and erratic rainfall drastically affect both crops and livestock.”
Other countries like El Salvador are plagued by drought and forest fires destroying areas used for food production, further negatively affected by hurricanes and floods causing widespread devastation, according to Deutsche Welle (DW).
Areas Most Susceptible to Negative Effects of Climate Change
The Council of Foreign Relations estimated last year that the regions of Latin America, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa are likely most susceptible to the negative effects of climate change, causing people living in those areas to be most likely to seek refuge by way of cross-border migration.
The World Bank surmised that those three regions alone could together produce approximately 143 million internal climate migrants by 2050. While no comparable projections for cross-border migration exist, natural disasters and other climate consequences—especially for people living near borders—are linked to international movement.