NEW YORK, NY — In 2020, natural disasters forced more than 30 million people to migrate across the globe; by 2050, climate change impacts could bring this number up to 216 million. This mass migration is happening against the global backdrop of a growing nativist consensus championed by the far right and rooted in racist evaluations of immigrants’ and refugees’ “worthiness.” Meanwhile, many progressives have failed to offer a compelling counternarrative or policy architecture, and some have even adopted right-wing restrictionist frames. This failure of vision has enabled toxic nativism to flourish—threatening not only migrants but also our multiracial democracy.
A new Roosevelt Institute report, The Statue of Liberty Plan: A Progressive Vision for Migration in the Age of Climate Change, proposes a new framework for welcoming millions of migrants to the United States and argues for a new, bold narrative about immigration—one that frames migration policy as a question about the country’s character rather than of migrants’ worth. Specifically addressing the present and future realities of climate migration, co-authors Deepak Bhargava, Roosevelt Institute senior fellow and Distinguished Lecturer at CUNY’s School of Labor and Urban Studies, and Richard Stolz, Roosevelt Institute fellow, call on progressives to embrace an approach that would make the US the most welcoming country on earth for migrants and refugees while strengthening our economy and multiracial democracy.
Drawing on the expertise and experiences of immigrant and climate justice leaders, academics, policymakers, communications professionals, and organizers, the report charts a path forward by:
- Providing context around the growing role of climate change in driving immigration through examining data projections and responses to climate migration from governments, movements, and the public around the world;
- Explaining how the dominant, nativist narrative embraced on both sides of the political spectrum has allowed a negative feedback loop to develop between mass migration and authoritarianism;
- Proposing a new narrative that acknowledges the historical causes of immigration—including colonialism, extractive economic policies, and white supremacy—and argues for expanded immigration as a driver of American economic and civic renewal; and
- Presenting a bold new policy framework that would admit 75 million immigrants and refugees to the country over the next decade, arguing that welcoming millions of migrants is vital to the country’s civic and economic renewal.
Insight from the authors:
“America has a choice: Deny our history of forced displacement and let fears of ‘replacement’ continue to propagate, or live up to our professed identity and become the most welcoming country on Earth,” Bhargava said. “As climate change forces growing numbers of people to seek refuge in the US, we can be sure that the far right will intensify racist nativist narratives and calls for walls and militarized borders. We can—and must—choose a different path based on shared values.”
“Global reports are just now catching on to the reality that immigrants and refugees have long known: Climate change is rapidly increasing global migration,” said Stolz. “We can meet the challenge by building a broad coalition to establish a new ‘welcome culture’ across the country.”