The Next Mexican Migrant Wave

Grist's Amy McDermott never names the small Mexican town at the heart of her story about the wave of climate refugees already crossing the border into the United States. She can't. The studies she pulls from only note that the town is on the river Lerma, which is drying up as regional temperatures rise. That's because the researcher doesn't want to give U.S. immigration officers a map with a bullseye. 

Of the 7 million Mexicans who relocated between 2005 and 2010, perhaps 1.4 million came to the United States. In other words, only a fifth of Mexico’s total migrants crossed the U.S. border.

But in the little town on the river Lerma, many people head to the United States. Because of the fraught politics of immigration between the two countries, Flores-Yeffal doesn’t give the town’s name in her research, but many of Mexico’s international climate migrants start out in small towns like it, in a cluster of west-central states where the choice to leave is rooted in history.

There's something particularly tragic about this. The incoming president kicked off his campaign promising to build a wall on the southern border to keep migrants from Mexico out. People, he said, who are coming here for economic opportunities, including on the black market. Now he has stacked his cabinet with climate change deniers and oil executives keen to forego cuts to carbon emissions in favor of cheap, short-term growth. We're helping to create more climate refugees and giving them one less place to go.