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Natural disasters and the dire effects of climate change cause massive population displacements and lead to some of the most intractable political and humanitarian challenges seen today. Yet, as Maria Cristina Garcia observes in this critical history of U.S. policy on migration in the Global South, there is actually no such thing as a climate refugee under current U.S. law. Most initiatives intended to assist those who must migrate are flawed and ineffective from inception because they are derived from outmoded policies. In a world of climate change, U.S. refugee policy simply does not work.
Garcia focuses on Central America and the Caribbean, where natural disasters have repeatedly worsened poverty, inequality, and domestic and international political tensions. She explains that the creation of better U.S. policy for those escaping disasters is severely limited by the 1980 Refugee Act, which continues to be applied almost exclusively for reasons of persecution directly related to politics, race, religion, and identity. Garcia contends that the United States must transform its outdated migration policies to address today's realities. Climate change and natural disasters are here to stay, and much of the human devastation left in their wake is essentially a policy choice.