Sep 20, 2019

Trump administration ignored internal report on climate change and migration

Photo: Pedro Pardo/AFP/Getty Images

The Trump administration froze some foreign aid intended to ease the impact of climate change in Guatemala despite evidence from one of its own agencies that it is a factor driving record Central American migration, NBC News reports.

The big picture: The White House has instead focused on stemming the flow of migrants by agreeing to use law enforcement measures, centered on sending U.S. officials, vehicles and equipment to Guatemala to stop immigrants from other countries from passing through on their way to the U.S.

  • That agreement, which was finalized in July, does not mention the effects of climate change on migration.

The backdrop: NBC obtained a report created by U.S. Customs and Border Protection — given to senior Department of Homeland Security officials — that showed immigration spiked from areas of Guatemala that don't have reliable subsistence farming or wages from commercial farming jobs.

  • Scientists have listed climate change as a catalyst driving food insecurity.
  • Months after the report was finalized, the Trump administration froze $170 million in foreign aid to Central American nations in a funding review for the 2017 fiscal year. Part of that money was used to mitigate the effects of climate change on small farms.
  • More than $400 million in aid that had been set for the 2018 fiscal year will also be repurposed elsewhere.

The state of play: The funding freeze vexed advocates — both inside and outside the Trump administration — who supported solutions to "push factors" that drive migrants to leave their homes.

  • A DHS official told NBC that high turnover at the agency made officials nervous about losing their jobs.
  • "Everyone knows [White House adviser Stephen] Miller isn't interested in hearing about climate change," the official said.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Stef Knight: Migration crises are never random. Parents don’t get up and take their children on perilous, expensive journeys for no reason, but the Trump administration’s messaging has consistently focused on potential draws of the U.S.’s outdated immigration system rather than what is driving Central Americans to leave in the first place.

  • The bottom line: This messaging fits better with Trump’s tough stance on immigration.

Go deeper: Why the migrant crisis is happening now

Go deeper

USDA's silence on climate crisis makes little sense to farmers

Photo: Jean-Francois Monier/AFP/Getty Images

The Trump administration's resistance to addressing climate change is exacerbating the Department of Agriculture's mostly unsuccessful attempts to help farmers cope with extreme weather, Politico reports.

Why it matters: Farmers and ranchers are already reckoning with the impacts of climate change today in their businesses, making federal action (or inaction) on the issue especially relevant.

Go deeperArrowOct 15, 2019

Nearly 1 million migrants apprehended on southern border in FY 2019

Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

The Trump administration apprehended a total of 1 million migrants at the southwest border of the U.S. in fiscal year 2019, Customs and Border Protection commissioner Mark Morgan told reporters at the White House on Tuesday.

Why it matters: That figure is 88% higher than it was in 2018 and the highest total of any fiscal year since 2007. However, Morgan said those numbers have declined significantly in recent months — with September marking the lowest number of apprehensions for the year. He cited President Trump's June 7 deal with Mexico to stem the flow of migration as a factor in the steep drop.

Go deeper: Acting CBP head touts falling border numbers at rare press briefing

Trump to reinstate aid to Central American nations

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

The U.S. will unfreeze at least some of the hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid for El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala that was blocked earlier this year, President Trump tweeted and the State Department announced on Wednesday.

Between the lines: Over the past few months, Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan — who turned in his resignation last Friday and is currently in El Salvador — has signed asylum agreements with the three nations.

Go deeperArrowOct 16, 2019