Frontline Organizations Leading Solutions at the Intersections of Climate and Immigrant Justice 

Ask a farm worker in California, and they will tell you what climate change looks like.

Some of them have already been displaced due to climate-related disasters in their home countries, such as flooding or droughts or wars over scarce resources. In their new homes, precipitation patterns and the harvest season have changed too. They see first-hand how whole industries must shift in response to these changes. They are forced to work harder and faster to keep food from rotting in extreme heat. Some farm workers are losing their lives working an essential job that is 35 times more likely to result in death due to heat-related causes than any other occupation. With nearly half of all farmworkers undocumented immigrants, they risk intimidation or retaliation when they speak up about their experiences, voice the need for heat protections, or advocate for their legal rights.

SCALING UP COMMUNITY RESILIENCE

Asian Pacific Environmental Network

TRANSFORMING NARRATIVES ABOUT CLIMATE MIGRATION

Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy

DEFENDING JUSTICE IN A “CLIMATE REFUGE CITY”

PUSH Buffalo and Justice for Migrant Families

THE HUMAN IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE: MOBILIZING, PROTECTING, AND LEARNING FROM FARM WORKERS

UFW Foundation

Talk with a Southeast Asian fisherman in Louisiana, and they will tell you how rising seas and the reduction in water quality are impacting their livelihoods and their homes. They will also share the ways they’ve adapted and found solutions to a changing climate.

For some of us, the realization that climate change is having a disproportionate impact on immigrant communities, as well as Black, Indigenous, and all People of Color, is relatively new. Climate change is also now the biggest driver of global migration – with three times more people displaced by weather-related disasters than conflict in 2021. And by 2050, 216 million people could be forced to move within their own countries due to climate change.

For many frontline organizations and the communities they partner with, working at the intersections of climate and environmental justice, immigrant justice, racial justice, and economic justice has been core to their approach for years, and in many cases decades. Frontline community members and organizations have lived experience of the ways climate change is intersecting with immigrant communities and fueling global migration– and they are leading solutions.

In this collection of case studies, we showcase five among a growing number of extraordinary “climate changemakers, innovators, and solutionaries,” as The Solutions Project says. They demonstrate a range of ways immigrant communities are meeting the climate crisis with distinct cultural knowledge and in solidarity with other communities to create the future we all want.

What becomes clear from these case studies is that people leave their homes in search of safety, food, and shelter as an option of last resort, and in the words of Colette Pichon Battle, Executive Director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy, “We must establish a new social attitude to see migration as a benefit, a necessity for our global survival.” What also becomes clear is that migration is a benefit both for people doing the moving, as well as the communities they become part of.

We learn how immigrant and refugee residents in Buffalo, New York are teaching their communities new ways of addressing the climate crisis, such as vertical farming on small plots of land that yield big harvests, and how they are revitalizing the area both with new businesses and creativity. We learn how Laotian refugees in Richmond, California have helped establish the concept for Community Resilience Hubs – entities such as libraries and community centers that all residents can turn to for safety and support during wildfires or heat waves, or other climate-related disasters.

Each of the organizations profiled here is a grantee partner of The Solutions Project, a movement- accountable intermediary that funds and amplifies grassroots climate justice solutions created by Black, Indigenous, Immigrant, women and other People of Color-led organizations across the U.S. This collection of case studies was created as a collaboration between The Solutions Project and Unbound Philanthropy.

Unbound has spent the past year researching and learning about the intersections of climate and immigrant justice. In December 2021, Unbound published On the Frontlines of the Climate Emergency: Where Immigrants Meet Climate Change. These case studies build on that report.

We hope that this collection of case studies provides a closer look at the work happening at the intersection of climate change and migration, and that these extraordinary organizations and leaders inspire you to ask questions, learn more, and get involved with your philanthropy in helping to strengthen the organizations and collaborations across the migrant and climate justice movements.

Taryn Higashi

Executive Director, Unbound Philanthropy

Gloria Walton

President and CEO, The Solutions Project