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LIRS Releases Report on Climate Disaster and Protection Pathways for Migration

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LIRS Releases Report on Climate Disaster and Protection Pathways for Migration

August 2, 2021
Contact: Timothy Young | | 443-257-6310
Washington D.C. – Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, the nation’s largest faith-based nonprofit dedicated exclusively to serving refugees, asylum seekers, and other vulnerable immigrants, today released its report on climate disaster and pathways to protection.
Across the globe, the effects of climate change-related disaster are exacerbating humanitarian crises and driving individuals and families to leave their communities and ways of life. The overwhelming majority of climate disaster displacement will occur within countries’ own borders, as we have seen so starkly in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina or the historic wildfires in California in 2020. However, for the millions of climate-displaced persons who will cross borders for safety or livelihood, there is currently no dedicated, specific legal or policy framework under U.S. or international law that affords lasting protection.
“Climate change-related disaster has emerged as just as destructive a force as war, violence, and persecution,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, President and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. “LIRS proposes that the United States uses every available tool in its toolkit to protect the climate displaced under its existing authorities while pioneering new pathways to protection that meet this moment of climate crisis.”
The new report details recommendations for Congress and for the Biden administration ahead of its own report on climate migration and options for protecting those displaced by climate change, expected in early August as required by Executive Order.
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service’s recommendations include:
  • pioneering U.S. legislation acknowledging the need for relief for persons displaced by climate disaster
  • expediting the process for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designations and building a credible pathway to permanent residency and citizenship for TPS holders
  • using Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) to provide immediate protection for nationals of a country experiencing sudden-onset disaster when the government of that country refuses or is slow to request protection for its own citizens
  • leveraging immigration authorities to generously offer humanitarian refuge to individuals and exploring ways to provide broader protections through parole programs
  • building bilateral and (sub-)regional agreements that ensure protections for temporary, circular, and permanent migration for persons displaced by climate disaster
  • revisiting the Global Compact on Refugees to become a signatory to the compact
  • adopting policies at both the federal and state levels that rapidly reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions to limit global temperature increases, while also instituting resilience measures to assist communities already displaced by ongoing and cyclical climate disasters

“We believe that the time for action to protect climate displaced people is overdue. The U.S. is uniquely positioned to lead the way for the international community, and as one of the world’s largest carbon emitters, it also has a moral responsibility to strengthen protection pathways for people who are losing their homes and livelihoods to the climate disaster,” concluded Vignarajah.

The new report is titled “Climate Disaster and Protection Pathways for Migration” and can be downloaded here.


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