Is Climate Change Fueling Immigration Crisis? Numbers Show Crop Yields Are Actually Increasing


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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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Research by the Center for Immigration Studies suggests New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other Democrats are wrong when they say illegal immigration from Central America is fueled by climate change.

Matthew Sussis, assistant director of communications for the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), compiled crop yield data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization from 2000 to 2017. The data was related to the top crops produced in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador — the three countries in the Northern Triangle that make up a bulk of the illegal migrants apprehended on the U.S. southern border.

Most of the top crops in these Central American countries saw an increase in production over the past 10 years — with the exception of El Salvador, but that country also experienced strong growth in other crops over the past decade.

From 2007 t0 2017, Honduras saw major growth in coffee, melons, palm oil, rice and beans, with some of production growing by hundreds of thousands of metric tons. Similar growth took place in Guatemala during the same period, which saw a huge increase in palm oil production, along with growth in bananas, sugar, corn and rice.

Coffee, rice and sorghum did decline in El Salvador during the past 10 years, but at the same time, the country was able to produce substantially more corn, sugarcane and beans. The decline in coffee, according to Sussis, was partially due to market competition from other exporters and also because of political volatility.

“In all three Northern Triangle countries, the majority of the top agricultural products have seen production growth in recent years — in some cases tripling or quadrupling in size. Given the successful crop yields in Latin America, it is hard to imagine that climate change is a major factor driving migration flows,” Sussis noted in the report.

The study comes after numerous progressive politicians and others have attempted to link illegal immigration to climate change.

Central American migrants ride train through Juchitan, Oaxaca

Central American migrants, moving in a caravan through Juchitan, Oaxaca are pictured atop a train known as “The Beast” while continuing their journey toward the United States, in Mexico April 26, 2019. REUTERS/Jose de Jesus Cortes

“The far-right loves to drum up fear [and] resistance to immigrants. But have you ever noticed they never talk about what‘s causing people to flee their homes in the first place?” New York Democratic Sen. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted earlier in April. “Perhaps that’s [because] they’d be forced to confront 1 major factor fueling global migration: Climate change.”

Ocasio-Cortez’s comments closely mirror what climate activist Al Gore and other news reports have been alleging in recent time. Namely, that migrants in Central America are victims of global warming, searching for better economic opportunities because of crop failure. (RELATED: ICE Announces Plan To Stop ‘Fake Families’ And Child Smuggling At The Border)
“A much better explanation for the migration surge is not push factors but pull factors,” Sussis concluded. “Put simply, Central American migrants are by-and-large not coming to America because of life-threatening climate catastrophes. Rather, they’re showing up because they know we’ll let them stay.”

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