The Global Climate Strike

To help students explore the climate change debate, please see our resource on climate change policy here.

Over one million workers, students, and others engaged in the global climate strike on Friday, September 20, in an effort to call for more significant action to combat climate change.1 This was the third in a series of worldwide strikes organized by students; the rally was planned to coincide with the United Nations Climate Action Summit.2


Students protesting climate changeWhat are the students’ demands?

The organizers of the strike state their demands as follows:

“The climate crisis is an emergency – we want everyone to start acting like it. We demand climate justice for everyone. Our hotter planet is already hurting millions of people. If we don’t act now to transition fairly and swiftly away from fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy for all, the injustice of the climate crisis will only get worse. We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations, and climate justice at its heart.”3

At the New York City rally, marchers chanted, “You had a future, and so should we.”4


Why strike?

Many young people in the United States and many people the world over are upset that policymakers are not seriously addressing climate change. Recent reports from the UN and the U.S. government, among others, have called attention to the dire challenges of climate change. The U.S. government’s National Climate Assessment declares, “Climate change creates new risks and exacerbates existing vulnerabilities in communities across the United States, presenting growing challenges to human health and safety, quality of life, and the rate of economic growth.”5 The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that “[f]uture climate-related risks depend on the rate, peak, and duration of warming,” and that it is too late to avoid some, but not all, of the impacts of climate change.6

Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish activist, spoke for many young people when she said, “You all come to us young people for hope. How dare you. … You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”7

WATCH: Greta Thunberg speaks at the Climate Action Summit


What else is being done?

In the United States, there is a court case, Juliana v. United States, that argues that there is a fundamental right to a stable, livable climate and that the U.S. government is denying young people that right.8 The case began in 2015, with the most recent action taking place in June 2019. There will likely be continued climate efforts in the courts, as many are frustrated with elected officials’ lack of progress.

Read more about the Juliana case here

Climate change legislation is also a frequent subject of debate among presidential candidates, and CNN hosted a town hall on the subject with 10 Democratic candidates.9 A major focus of debate on the campaign trail and on Capitol Hill is the Green New Deal.

See our post about the Green New Deal here


Discussion Questions

  • What have you heard about the climate strikes? Do you know anyone who has participated?
  • Do you think these climate strikes will have an impact on policy? Why or why not?
  • Do you think the government should guarantee the “right to a stable, livable climate”?
  • What is the responsibility of young people to engage in demonstrations such as climate strikes?


To investigate this topic further, please see our resource on climate change here.


Featured Image Credit: Handout/Reuters, via the Washington Post
[1] CNN:
[2] MIT Technology Review:
[3] Global Climate Strike website:
[4] New York Times:
[5] Fourth National Climate Assessment, Vol. 2:
[6] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:
[7] Los Angeles Times:
[8] Our Children’s Trust:
[9] CNN:



Migrant Detention and Congressional Oversight

Immigration policy and enforcement continues to be a major area of conflict between congressional Democrats and the executive branch. Currently, Congress is considering many bills related to immigration, asylum, migrant detention, and family separation. This week, we will look at two bills that Democrats are advancing; next week, we will look at two bills that Republicans are advancing.

The HOMESTEAD Act of 2019 (H.R. 3868)

The full name of the HOMESTEAD Act is the Help Oversee, Manage, and Evaluate Safe Treatment and Ensure Access without Delay Act of 2019. The name comes from the Homestead shelter for migrant children.

The bill would make it easier for any member of Congress to visit a government-operated detention center that houses undocumented immigrants.It would also allow members of Congress to inspect the facilities without advance notice. (Currently, members of Congress must give 48 hours advance notice for an inspection, and the departments that oversee the detention centers are not required to allow entry to members of Congress. In April, three congresswomen from Florida attempted to visit one of the child detention centers in Homestead, Florida. The Department of Health and Human Services, the department that oversees the facility, denied them entrance.)2

Immigrant and migrant families along U.S.-Mexico border

Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act of 2019 (S. 2113 in the Senate; H.R. 3918 in the House of Representatives)

In addition to expressing concerns about oversight, some members of Congress have criticized the Trump administration for its detention policies.3 Researchers argue that the detention of children will have long-term mental and emotional effects.4 In fact, the administration’s own Department of Homeland Security issued a report that was deeply critical of conditions at four separate detention centers.5

This bill aims to address these conditions. The bill would:

  • Require that immigration officials make every effort to keep families together
  • Provide better medical care for children in detention centers
  • Set higher standards for detention centers in areas such as cleanliness, ventilation, and temperature
  • Provide staff for both supervision and attention to children’s welfare6

SEE: An Open Letter from Senate Democrats

Immigrants’ rights activists insist that this bill would protect children. A petition circulated by the American Civil Liberties Union states, “[W]e’ve uncovered tens of thousands of pages of evidence documenting U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials physically, sexually, and verbally abusing children.”7

But the Trump administration argues that by detaining families and making illegal immigration more daunting and difficult, it will deter the practices of illegal immigration. “One of the things that will happen, when they realize the borders are closing—the wall is being built, we are building tremendous numbers of miles of wall right now in different locations—it all comes together like a beautiful puzzle,” said President Trump.8

For this reason, and to avoid having to release undocumented families into the United States while their court cases are considered, the Trump administration is considering a rule change that would allow for indefinite detention of migrant families.Twenty states are currently suing the administration to block the rule change.10

Thus, there is presently much action taking place in the area of immigration policy, but it is unclear what changes will come in the months ahead. Next week, we will examine two Republican proposals to address concerns over immigration.


Discussion Questions

  • When you think of immigration, what do you see as the biggest problems facing the country?
  • Do you think illegal immigration is a serious issue? Why or why not?
  • Do you think these two bills are addressing significant issues? Why or why not?
  • If you were advising your member of Congress about these two bills, what advice would you give them? How would you like them to vote?


Featured Image Credit: Handout/Reuters, via the Washington Post
[2] Miami Herald:
[3] CNBC:
[4] National Public Radio:
[5] CNN:
[7] American Civil Liberties Union:
[8] New York Times:
[9] Washington Post:
[10] The Hill: