Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which has cost millions of Americans their jobs, the incoming Biden administration seems determined to increase immigration levels. One of the avenues by which they may seek to increase immigration is through an unconventional approach that grants special immigration benefits to those deemed to be victims of climate change.
In recent years, addressing climate change has become a cornerstone issue for the Democratic Party and may become a legitimate avenue seized upon by the Biden administration, under pressure from advocacy groups, as a pretext to dramatically raise immigration levels and rollback Trump administration immigration policies.
One way the Biden administration may exploit climate change to increase immigration levels is by offering Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in larger numbers to those impacted by events allegedly caused by climate change, which include hurricanes, rising sea levels, and extreme droughts.
TPS allows non-resident foreigners whose homelands are beset by civil strife or effects of a natural disaster of “extraordinary and temporary conditions” to remain temporarily in the U.S. The program spares illegal aliens from deportation and it also provides them a quasi-legal status and work permits.
But since its implementation, the program has been abused by both Democrat and Republican administrations that grant repeated extensions, even though the conditions in their country of origin have improved. Despite having the word “temporary” in its program name, TPS has become a de facto amnesty for hundreds of thousands of individuals.
Even after the Trump administration’s efforts to reform and in some cases terminate the designation for some countries, there are still 411,000 TPS beneficiaries in the U.S. from ten countries: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. That number is only expected to rise under the Biden administration’s vision.
President-elect Joe Biden has already made clear that his administration will “order an immediate review of TPS for vulnerable populations who cannot find safety in their countries ripped apart by violence or disaster. [It] will protect TPS and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) holders from being returned to countries that are unsafe.”
Under this broad vision and his desire to infuse “climate change into just about everything the government does,” the number of immigrants coming into the country could swell significantly. Even more startling, Biden also plans to offer TPS recipients a pathway to citizenship which would grant permanent residency and be the anthesis of the “temporary” program.
A second way the Biden administration may exploit climate change to increase immigration levels is to raise the annual refugee cap by classifying more individuals as victims of climate change.
Biden plans to increase the annual refugee cap to 125,000—a more than 730% increase over the current cap set by the Trump administration. It is a near certainty that these expanded caps will be reached. While serving as Vice President in the Obama administration, the annual ceiling for refugee admissions was reached in each of his last four years in office.
Migrants—especially from Central America— already view President-elect Biden as someone who will likely grant them U.S. protections and benefits after a natural disaster. Two recent hurricanes that struck Central America have already convinced individuals to form caravans heading to the U.S. so that they can take advantage of Biden’s anticipated laissez-faire immigration policies—especially those in response to climate change.
The Biden administration’s views on the relationship between immigration and climate change jeopardize the integrity of the nation’s immigration system and will likely encourage more illegal immigration to the country.
The problems associated with climate change cannot be addressed by implementing more mass migration policies. Furthermore, it is irresponsible to see the Biden administration use concerns regarding climate change as an excuse to advance the political goals of radicals in the party.
With the pandemic displacing millions of American workers and seeing the health risks posed by large-scale migration, the administration should look to address other policy initiatives that better benefit the country.