September 2022

Marshall Fitz
7 min readOct 3, 2022


September marked the end of a tumultuous summer that saw an unprecedented number of climate-related disasters in the U.S. and across the globe. Those tragedies, which accelerate the movement of people within and across borders, helped belatedly propel climate migration into global policy discussions this month. The cynical transport of asylum seekers to northern cities by governors in Texas, Arizona, and Florida — and the inspired, welcoming response by people in those cities — extended the protracted political stalemate over how to manage migrants arriving at the border. And as the midterm elections draw near, many Republican candidates continue to campaign on anti-immigrant platforms and traffic in disinformation at the same time the Dreamer movement mobilizes in preparation for an imminent court ruling striking down DACA.

Climate Week and recent disasters shine a light on climate-driven migration

In the first week of September, thousands of people from a small town outside of San Francisco were displaced by California’s most recent blaze, Mill Fire. Two weeks later, on the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Maria, Hurricane Fiona made landfall in Puerto Rico, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without power and more than 15 dead. One of the deadliest hurricanes in American history, Maria proved to be an unprecedented accelerator of climate-driven migration: an estimated 130,000 people — almost 4% of the total population — were displaced from their homes, eventually moving to every state on mainland USA. This week, Hurricane Ian blacked out the entire island of Cuba and became one of the five most powerful storms to ever hit the United States when it made landfall in Florida. We are only just beginning to understand the level of destruction and the scale of human displacement.

Globally, the examples of climate events accelerating migration flows within and between countries are countless and growing. Floods in Pakistan earlier this summer have displaced some 33 million people, including hundreds of thousands of recently-settled Afghan refugees. Unprecedented drought and desertification have Somalia on the cusp of another famine and have already forced a million people to leave their homes in search of aid. Closer to the U.S., back-to-back hurricanes Eta and Iota devastated Central American countries in 2020, impacting 9.2 million including 3.5 million children. Without legal mechanisms to safely and orderly manage the flows of people across borders, those disasters contributed to historic levels of irregular migration throughout the hemisphere. On the whole, experts (very conservatively) predict that by the year 2050, over 200 million people will be displaced across the globe due to severe climate-related events or environmental degradation.

With climate impacts now unequivocally compounding the forces that have led to the current historic levels of forced migration, we helped launch the Climate Migration Council during Climate Week in New York City this month. The Council’s goal is to elevate awareness about the scale of climate-driven migration and highlight the urgency of coordinated international action to build more flexible, humane, and orderly frameworks for managing migration.

We will work with the Council to harness the members’ collective capacity to influence international conversations and policies. Comprised of former heads of state, leading national security experts, business and labor leaders, academics and advocates, the Council’s cross sectoral membership can speak to the collision of climate change and migration in different, powerful ways. Please stay tuned as we continue to build out work in this space.

Southern governors escalate cynical ploy with migrant relocations

The political spectacle of transporting migrants to “blue” jurisdictions from Texas and Arizona has been ongoing since April. Lacking a southern land border, but nonetheless hungry for a starring role in this drama, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis muscled his way on stage by significantly upping the ante. DeSantis appears to have lured migrants from a Texas border shelter to the Sunshine State under false pretenses before flying them to — and stranding them in — Martha’s Vineyard, a small island with no extensive immigration resource networks to speak of.

Testimonies of the 48 Venezuelan asylum seekers dropped in Martha’s Vineyard indicate they were misled and deceived about their final destination and their access to employment opportunities. Despite a firestorm of public outrage, DeSantis continues to double down on his decision and didn’t shy away from the idea of doing it again.

While Governor DeSantis chose to inject himself into the standoff over border policy for a political photo-op, the local community in Martha’s Vineyard chose to mobilize around the immediate needs of the recent arrivals. Local shelters called up volunteers, residents donated food, clothing and luggage, and beds were secured for every migrant. Lawyers responded to the mobilization call as well, helping migrants move court dates and pursue asylum claims. The rapid, compassionate response of ordinary Americans was a welcome antidote to the craven efforts of politicians to bolster media market share by exploiting human beings.

Venezuelan migrants stand outside St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Edgartown, Mass., after they were flown to Martha’s Vineyard by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. (Ray Ewing/Vineyard Gazette/Reuters)

Midterm Elections: competing visions of America on the ballot

Ahead of November’s elections, President Biden convened the United We Stand Summit to denounce and counter “the corrosive effects” of hate-fueled violence and rhetoric on American democratic institutions and public safety. The summit was timely, as many Republican candidates continue to campaign on anti-immigrant platforms fueled by misinformation and xenophobic rhetoric.

Unfortunately, demonizing immigrants to rile up base voters has become a standard play in the recent GOP political playbook. The strategy helped catapult Donald Trump to the top of his party and ultimately the White House. So it came as little surprise when Governor DeSantis, now considered the front runner to succeed Trump as the party standard bearer, inserted himself in the migrant relocation drama. Republican political candidates Blake Masters (AZ), Gov. Brian Kemp (GA), and NRSC Chair Sen. Rick Scott (FL) continue to use terms like “invasion” to describe immigration at the southern border. Masters and others have gone further, openly accusing Democrats of attempting to change the demographics of the U.S. population for political gain. These charges are thinly sanitized allusions to “Great Replacement Theory”, a nativist conspiracy theory that has gained favor in right wing media and motivated wanton violence, including the El Paso Walmart Shooting in 2019.

The United We Stand Summit articulates a different vision, one that embraces unity and inclusion over divisive othering and marginalization that feed violence and intolerance. This home stretch of the campaign season is certain to be an ugly one; here’s hoping the country chooses the promise of hope over the politics of division.

DACA in the judicial crosshairs

Unlike the politically charged rhetoric branding asylum seekers as threats to America, over 600,000 DACA recipients face a real and imminent threat to their futures and livelihoods. As we have described in the last several editions of this monthly update, nearly all experts believe the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals will strike down the DACA program.

Five years to the month after President Trump first attempted to terminate the program, the litigation efforts to preserve the program are approaching an end point. The issue before the court squarely centers on the program’s legality, an issue the Supreme Court evaded the first time DACA litigation reached its steps. Legal experts and court watchers strongly believe that the court of appeals will conclude the program is an impermissible exercise of executive power and that the Supreme Court will uphold that conclusion.

DACA has always been a stop-gap solution, an incredibly important one that has unlocked the aspirations and potential of hundreds of thousands of our friends, colleagues, and neighbors. But it has left those same strivers and contributors in cruel limbo, subject to shifting political winds. Only an act of Congress can provide the lasting solution that will enable these aspiring citizens to move forward with the confidence that all they have earned will not be mercilessly snatched from them.

That means when the courts rule, we will need the voices, energy, and focus of Americans across the country to stand with Dreamers and demand that Congress move past petty politics to deliver a just and permanent solution. We will keep you informed and provide opportunities to engage as this process unfolds. Stay tuned.

Across the globe, human migration has reached unprecedented levels. The manifold reasons driving this historic movement of people are interconnected and unrelenting: poverty, war, violence, political corruption and instability, economic opportunity, and family reunification. The intensifying impacts of climate change are accelerating those trends, creating tipping points for vulnerable communities across the planet. The resulting human flows will challenge our system of borders and create a powerful imperative to rethink international frameworks for facilitating and managing human mobility for our collective benefit. We need creative solutions and collaborative strategies to meet this moment and we are calling on the global community to respond with the urgency it demands.

In solidarity,

Marshall Fitz
Managing Director of Immigration



Marshall Fitz

Managing Director of Immigration at the Emerson Collective. Advocate for humanity, sports junky, 1/2-assed Buddhist, proud papa and spouse. Views obv my own.