by Leeja Miller
The term “climate refugee” has been used frequently in the media and elsewhere to refer to the growing number of people being displaced by rising sea levels, land degradation, and large-scale natural disasters due to climate change. The legal protections afforded to these displaced people are murky, however, and international legal definitions of who is considered a “refugee” leave those displaced by the effects of climate change largely without remedy. Developments in national and international jurisprudence and adaptive interpretations of international treaties may, however, mark the beginning stages of an international movement towards recognizing and granting legal protections to climate refugees.
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by Jessica Johnson
The Right to the Environment of El Salvadoran Recipients of TPS
In January and February 2001, two massive earthquakes decimated the country of El Salvador, causing the devastation of land and homes as well as economic strife. After the disaster, the United States granted El Salvadoran nationals Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”), a status designated to a country suffering from a natural disaster, war, or other extraordinary circumstances that prevent nationals from residing there safely. The status has been periodically extended, as is permissible under the statute while poor conditions persist.
In March 2018, President Donald Trump announced the end of Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”) for over 200,000 El Salvadoran immigrants to the United States. Trump’s justification for deporting hundreds of thousands of El Salvadorans is that “original conditions caused by the 2001 earthquakes no longer exist”, coupled with a persistent desire to tighten border security. However, the U.S. renewed the status in 2016 and cited to ongoing effects of the earthquakes, including severe drought impacting food security, economic loss due to inability to harvest, infrastructure challenges, a lack of potable water, and resulting strife and violence stemming from these problems. Without the political stability and security needed to deal with these environmental issues, they persist today.
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