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ICYMI: As Climate Disasters Increase Instability, Urgency for TPS Designation in Guatemala Intensifies

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Nearly a year after devastating hurricanes, climate change driven displacement impacting Guatemala

Almost a year after Hurricanes Eta and Iota devastated the Northern Triangle, AFP reports Guatemalans are still struggling with widespread displacement, food insecurity, and economic deterioration. 

The back-to-back storms in November 2020 compounded with the COVID-19 crisis have left 2.8 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. Designating Guatemala for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) would prevent deportations to a country wracked by economic and humanitarian crises and would stabilize the region through increased remittances. As climate change continues to have a disproportionate impact on countries already vulnerable to poverty, the Biden Administration must use TPS as a tool to provide humanitarian relief and stability in the region. 

The article is excerpted below and can be read in full here: 

“Lazaro Yat looked on helplessly as his 17-year-old son left the family home in Guatemala and embarked on the perilous journey to the United States as an undocumented migrant.

Two powerful hurricanes that struck the north of the Central American country in 2020 decimated cardamom crops, leaving thousands of indigenous people destitute.

“Everyone suffered because their crops were left submerged in water,” Yat told AFP from Cerro Azul, a tiny village of barely 500 people at the foot of the mountains in Quiche department.

Hurricanes Eta and Iota ripped through this region in October and November 2020 leaving 200 people dead and massive damage throughout Central America.

Experts say climate change is contributing to ever more devastating weather episodes.

…”Some people went northwards (towards the US) because there was no way of surviving here,” said Yat.

…For Alex Guerra, director of Guatemala’s institute of investigation on climate change, such natural disasters provoked by global warming are a growing “trigger” for migration in the region.

…They are fleeing poverty and violence, and extreme weather events can “provide the last push that makes people decide to migrate,” Guerra told AFP.

In September, the World Bank said climate change could prompt 216 million people to migrate by 2050, including 17 million in Latin America.

…Central America is particularly vulnerable to climate change given its location in a cyclone zone, as well as being home to earthquakes, active volcanoes and affected by the El Nino and La Nina phenomenon.

The problems are exacerbated by massive social inequality, poor planning and weak infrastructure.

“There are places where there is flooding more regularly than before, year after year. We have years where there is flooding and drought, sometimes in the same places,” said Guerra.

…Yat has reached the end of his tether and is on the verge of joining the exodus.

“I think next year, or this year, I’m leaving. I have nothing left here, I can’t do any more,” he said.”