SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- In our on-going series 'Climate Matters, Western Mass News has been detailing how the changing climate has intertwined into our daily lives.
That warming is causing another crisis: The emergency on our southern border.
For many farmers in the highlands of Guatemala, coffee was a way out of hardship. Land that had been in the family's hands for generations and carefully cultivated is now being abandoned for a better way of life.
Guatemala is now the single largest source for migrants attempting to enter the United States. From October 2018 to September 2019, over 263,000 were apprehended at the southern border.
Dean Cycon from Dean's Beans Organic Coffee explained the importance of the topic of climate change and immigration.
"The big dialogue is how do we stop that? How you stop that is A) Coffee companies should pay more for the coffee so the people can stay on their land and B) We have to combat climate change. That's the root cause of this stuff. That's why those farmers are leaving," Cycon said.
A 2015 study found the changing climate is hurting coffee production and rising temperatures have damaged beans.
A lack of rain has led to drought, and a crop-killing fungus called 'la Roya' has spread rapidly.
"Farmers are faced with a real challenge. They really can't move their crops very easily. They are faced with 3 to 5 years of no income if they have to move. Climate change is forcing them to move," Cycon explained.
Climate change is not something that makes someone eligible for refugee status.
Refugee status is limited to people who can show they've suffered from political persecution or violence targeting them as an individual.
Rebecca Hamlin is an associate professor of Political Science at UMass Amherst and an accomplished author and expert on immigration.
"The really tricky part is it probably is a combination of factors. Climate change is certainly a big factor. Changing conditions on the ground. Those slow changes over time put economic pressure on communities, which is also linked to political factors. You're more likely to see political corruption in a place that is suffering economically, and economic factors are tied to climate, it's all interwoven and hard to separate out into just one factor," Hamlin explained.
Hamlin said migration to the U.S. border is usually a last resort.
"They are displaced internally in their country before anywhere else. Many people stay displaced in their home or their region and never make it to our borders. If we see a crisis at our border, it's the tip of the iceberg in terms of people who are being affected by economic depression, climate change, and political violence," Hamlin explained.