Climate Leader Bill McKibben May Face Up to Three Months in Jail for Protesting U.S. Immigration Policies

Bill Mckibben Arrest Immigration

Prominent climate activist Bill McKibben was arrested alongside a small group of demonstrators on Thursday afternoon for staging a sit-in at Congresswoman Elise Stefanik’s office in Glen Falls, New York. While McKibben has frequently used his platform to advocate for and educate the public about climate action, this protest was against the immigration policies that have been fresh on the minds of all of us following a week of targeted murders and ICE raids. Stefanik is a member of the GOP who trumpeted proudly on social media that she was “not a Socialist” clearly vilifying the activists as such. 

“It’s one of these moments in history with the horrible shootings last week and racist tantrums that our president’s throwing, it’s obviously time for people to stand up,” McKIbben said at the demonstration, per footage cited by Rolling Stone. After being released from jail several hours later, McKibben wrote to the publication that his protest was directly tied to his perspective on climate justice. “The climate crisis and the immigration crisis are tightly linked,” he explained. “Through no fault of their own, increasing numbers of people around the world find themselves unable to raise food — it’s now too hot or too wet or too dry. Their numbers will grow, staggeringly in the course of this century. So we should probably think about how to justly deal with that fact, instead of erecting walls and building cages.” 

Reflecting upon the demonstration, McKibben also penned a brief essay that was published in the New Yorker over the weekend. He cited the devastating droughts that have afflicted Central America over the past several years as well as the most recent report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that warns of anywhere between 200 million and 1 billion climate refugees who will leave their no longer inhabitable homelands. “These people did not pour into the atmosphere the carbon that raised the temperature, causing their woe,” he emphasized, pointing out that that was “us.” This is one of the basic tenets of climate justice, that the actions of carbon-wealthy nations do no harm to countries on the front lines of changing climate patterns. 

McKibben and his fellow demonstrators may face up to three months in prison if they are charged with criminal trespassing, “which I devoutly hope is not the case — a few hours was dreary enough,” he admitted. “But it’s a good reminder that there are many people effectively sentenced to terms like that on the border — people who can’t find their children, people who have no real home to go back to. We can’t be like them, those of us who have options and resources and connections. But we can, in some small way, be with them.”