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              Hawaii  Hawaii's newest Sen. Brian Schatz, the current lieutenant governor, smiles as he talks with reporters on the tarmac after deplaning Air Force One, Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie appointed Brian Schatz to the post Wednesday to replace the late Sen. Daniel Inouye. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)   

Immigration amendment would give legal status to victims of climate change

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Caroline May
Political Reporter

Hawaii Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz filed an amendment to the Senate immigration bill this week that would allow people displaced by climate change to seek conditional legal status, according to a report in ThinkProgress.

“The amendment I am proposing is quite simple. If enacted, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, may designate individuals or a group of individuals displaced permanently by climate change as stateless persons,” Schatz said, according to ThinkProgress.

“Again, let me be clear about what this amendment does. It simply recognizes that climate change, like war, is one of the most significant contributors to homelessness in the world,” he added. “And like with states torn apart and made uninhabitable by war, we have an obligation not to deport people back to a country made uninhabitable by sea level rise and other extreme environmental changes that render these states desolate.”

“It does not grant any individual or group of individuals outside the United States with any new status or avenue for seeking asylum in the United States,” he said.

The Schatz amendment, introduced Wednesday, also calls for a Government Accountability Office study on “climate change-induced migration,” including the extent of internal migration due to climate change for the residents of Alaska, Hawaii, territories and other states, as well as the government costs associated with the migration.

ThinkProgress noted, linking to a Guardian article, that last year 32 million people were displaced from their homes due to disasters like storms, floods and earthquakes. According to The Guardian, 98 percent of the 32 million displacements were due to climate change.

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