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Velázquez Introduces Historic Bill to Protect Environmental Migrants

Velázquez Introduces Historic Bill to Protect Environmental Migrants
October 23, 2019
Press Release

Washington, DC – Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) has introduced H.R. 4732, the Climate Displaced Person’s Act of 2019, first-of-its-kind legislation aimed at addressing the growing effect of climate change on human migration.

Importantly, the bill would create formal protections for climate-displaced persons (CDPs). CDPs are individuals who have been forcibly displaced by climate change or climate-induced disruptions, such as sea-level rise, glacial outburst floods, desertification or fires. According to studies by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), there could be as many as 200 million CDPs by 2050 globally. In fact, these predictions could easily be exceeded with the intensification of political instability and armed conflict resulting from climate drivers.

In response, Velázquez's legislation would create a humanitarian program separate from the U.S. refugee admissions program. The new program would admit a minimum of 50,000 CDPs, beginning with Fiscal Year 2020, allowing CDPs to access resettlement opportunities. The President would be granted authority to further promote resilience among communities facing the impacts of climate change as well as directed to collect and maintain data on displacement caused by climate change.

“Despite this Administration’s efforts to strip the world’s most vulnerable populations of refuge, America will continue to stand tall as a safe haven for immigrants,” said Velázquez. “This legislation will not only reaffirm our nation’s longstanding role as a home to those fleeing conflict and disasters, but it will also update it to reflect changes to our world brought on by a changing climate.”

Velázquez's legislation would also direct the Secretary of State, in coordination with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator, to devise a Global Climate Resilience Strategy. The Global Climate Resilience Strategy would require the State Department to create a Coordinator of Climate Resilience position, responsible for all federal efforts to address the effects of events caused by climate change.

H.R. 4732 has been referred to the Committees on Foreign Affairs, Judiciary, and Energy and Commerce. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) has introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

“If we are going to meaningfully discuss comprehensive climate equity and climate justice, we must inject security assistance and resettlement opportunities for climate-displaced persons into our conversations,” Velázquez concluded. “I am proud to introduce legislation to protect the human rights of climate-displaced persons and commend Senator Markey for introducing the Senate companion bill.”

Velázquez's bill can be found here.