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White House flags cuts to migration and dwindling interest in climate change

20 December 20170 comments

Australia’s migration system has again been drawn into debates in the US over the intake of immigrants and refugee.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has called for the end of what is known in the US as ‘chain migration’ – or family reunion migration – and the introduction of a merit-based system similar to Australia’s and Canada’s.

But although Australia and Canada admits a much smaller share of their immigrants under family-based migration – they have not eliminated the program altogether.

The call comes as President Trump released the US’ National Security Strategy (NSS) which flagged more curbs on immigration and the dropping of climate change as a global threat.

NGOs working in the climate and refugee sectors have condemned the strategy.

Human Rights First spokesperson Jennifer Quigley said: “President Trump’s ominous speech referred to the threats posed by ‘open borders.’ But for many, the long, arduous journey to protection in the United States is anything but easy.”

“Demonizing those who have fled violence and persecution, tearing families apart, and undermining our immigration system does nothing to make this country safer.

“The United States has developed rigorous interagency procedures to vet and screen asylum seekers and refugees—widely recognized as the most stringent in the world by national security and military leaders. Banning these individuals from our country contradicts American values, undermines American leadership, and threatens American security.

“If President Trump wants to show how strong America is, he should stop being afraid of the world’s most vulnerable people,” Ms Quigley said.

The Trump Administration will also drop climate change from a list of global threats under the new NSS.

Instead, the strategy will emphasize the need for the US to regain its economic competitiveness in the world.

That stance represents a sharp change from the previous administration, which placed climate change as one of the main dangers facing the nation and made building international consensus on containing global warming a national security priority.

“Climate change is not identified as a national security threat but climate and the importance of the environment and environmental stewardship are discussed,” a senior administration official was quoted as saying.

The official said Trump’s remarks when he announced he was taking the US out of the Paris climate accord “would be the guidepost for the language in the NSS on climate”.

In that speech in June, President Trump declared “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris” and alleged the agreement “hamstrings the United States while empowering some of the world’s top polluting countries”.

The Federalist news website, which was first to report that President Trump would drop climate change from the NSS, cited a document suggesting the Trump administration would actively oppose efforts to reduce the burning of oil, gas and coal for energy.

“US leadership is indispensable to countering an anti-growth energy agenda that is detrimental to US economic and energy security interests,” the website quoted the document as saying.

“Given future global energy demand, much of the developing world will require fossil fuels, as well as other forms of energy, to power their economies and lift their people out of poverty.”

But in testimony to Congress after his confirmation hearings in January, US Defense Secretary James Mattis said the US military had to consider how the thawing Arctic and drought in global flashpoints would pose present and future challenges.

“Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today,” Mr Mattis said in written answers to questions posed after the public hearing by Democratic members of the committee.

Mattis and the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson are reported to have argued against leaving the Paris climate agreement.


Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist