Should Climate-Friendly Cities Welcome Climate Migrants?

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Should Climate-Friendly Cities Welcome Climate Migrants?

An article from Grist explains how cities can prepare for the influx of climate immigrants.  The Institute for Economics estimates that 1.2 billion people could face the risk of displacement by 2050 due to climate shocks and resource scarcity.

For these people, moving to another city or country will very likely happen. For example, between September 2020 and February 2021, 10 million people moved out of their homes due to conflict.

But the number of people displaced due to climate change and other problems linked to it like poverty, conflict, and insurgency will be much higher.

The majority of these climate migrants will end up in cities, so cities should better prepare for climate migrants.

The article shares the experience of Las Cruces, New Mexico, as a landing site for thousands of migrants crossing the US-Mexico borders from Latin America and other parts of the world.  

La Cruces is a model city when it comes to welcoming migrants and helping them resettle. What makes Las Cruces such a unique city regarding its openness to assist migrants is because the state where it belongs, New Mexico, was once a part of Mexico.

As a result, the city shares the same culture, cuisine, and language with its Mexican neighbours, and it is easy for them to identify with these migrant’s struggles.

Many of these migrants are fleeing their homes due to violence and crime, drought, crop failure, and food insecurity. For some of them, their agricultural production has been devastated that it’s hard to bounce back, according to Gabe Vasquez, a Las Cruces city councillor.

Vasquez expects more migrants to cross the border and resettle in their city. He advocates for an “aggressive” resettlement program that includes providing medical care, meals, temporary shelter, and travel assistance. In addition, he and his fellow councillors consider a welcoming city as an essential part of its climate-resilience plan.

Thanu Yakupitiyage, a migrants-right activist and a U.S. communications director for, says that “immigrants evoke the fear of change”, but so does the climate crisis. For him, migration is a form of adaptation that could bring a significant benefit to receiving communities. Yakupityage says that “One of the strengths of American cities is how diverse they are”.

He further mentioned:

  • Federal and local coordination is key to preparing for climate migration. The constant fear of deportation is why migrants are pushed to the fringes putting them back in a vulnerable position and preventing them from fully participating and contributing to society.  
  • Governments should fix their broken immigration system and see how things are interconnected. He says that being a major contributor to climate change, the United States should welcome and support these migrants.

Yakupitiyage would like to see receiving cities ramp up efforts to green up low-income neighbourhoods where migrants tend to live and create job-training programs for them to become part of the green transition.

To read the entire article, click the link below:

Source Citation:

Thomson, C. (2021, June 25). Will climate-friendly cities be friendly to climate migrants? Grist. Retrieved from

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