News » CGRS Urges Congress to Pass the Climate Displaced Persons Act

CGRS Urges Congress to Pass the Climate Displaced Persons Act

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Nov 17, 2023

The Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS) is proud to endorse the Climate Displaced Persons Act (CDPA), reintroduced in Congress yesterday by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) and Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (NY-07). The CDPA would establish a national strategy to offer refuge to people displaced by climate change and enhance support for those affected by climate disasters internationally. This would include a new immigration pathway for “climate displaced persons” and measures to ensure an equitable response to climate displacement.

The devastating effects of climate change are now the leading cause of forced displacement globally, including displacement across borders. Marginalized populations, including Black and Indigenous people, women, LGBTQ+ individuals, and low-income communities, are disparately impacted. Yet the United States has no specific protection mechanisms to offer permanent refuge to those displaced by climate change.

“Given the United States’ outsized role in driving the climate displacement crisis, our government has a moral obligation to lead the way in protecting the lives of those impacted,” Kate Jastram, CGRS Director of Policy and Advocacy, said today. “We also have an obligation under U.S. and international law to offer safe haven to those seeking refuge from persecution and torture caused or exacerbated by the adverse effects of climate change. The administration has already acknowledged that it is in the national security interest of the United States to do so. The CDPA marks a critical step in the right direction. We applaud Senator Markey and Congresswoman Velázquez for their leadership and call on Congress to swiftly pass the bill.”

In 2021 CGRS launched a dedicated climate advocacy initiative to develop legal strategies to confront the climate displacement crisis. Our goal is to advance legal avenues to protection for climate and disaster-displaced people seeking refuge in the United States and in the Americas. In addition to the new visa pathway that would be established by the CDPA, we are advocating for the United States to improve its response to cross-border climate displacement by:

  • Maximizing the potential of U.S. asylum law to offer safe haven to those fleeing human rights abuses related to the adverse effects of climate change;

  • Expanding climate change considerations in the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program;

  • Reimagining Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to ensure permanent protection and remove barriers to relief for those displaced by climate change;

  • Making greater use of nationality-specific humanitarian parole programs to respond to humanitarian crises, including climate displacement;

  • Leveraging Safe Mobility Offices to lead regional solutions to climate displacement in the Americas;

  • Expanding complementary protection through the enactment of legislation consistent with our obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

  • And adopting the Cartagena Declaration definition of refugees, which would align the United States’ treatment of people seeking safety, including those displaced by climate change, with other refugee-hosting countries in the region.