Our VoiceImmigration

Anti-immigrant Groups and Environmentalists at Odds

Imagine 2050 Staff • Jan 07, 2010

Masked is the word that comes to mind when I think of anti-immigrant organizations that claim to be concerned about the environment. As we move into a new month, year, decade and closer to the 30th anniversary of Earth Day, we must be mindful of environmental issues and especially of who are considered legitimate environmental experts. Conscious and informed environmentalism is imperative to solve dire environmental problems.

However, politically extreme organizations that purport to prioritize environmental preservation/conservation are using this alarming issue to promote their anti-immigrant agendas. They are employing several aggressive tactics, some of which are outright attacks on mainstream environmental organizations for not taking an anti-immigrant stance. Other examples include TV and radio advertisements which falsely connect immigrants to environmental degradation. Fear-mongering and bullying are the anti-immigrant movement’s favored tactics. 

Jerry Kammer, a senior research fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies in his memorandum entitled, “Strategic Negligence: how the Sierra Club’s Distortions on Border and Immigration are Undermining its Environmental Legacy”, attacks the Sierra Club by saying it has “retreated timidly from the national debate over immigration policy…” Kammer also attacks Carl Pope, the executive director of the Sierra Club, for saying that if the organization favored reduced immigration they would be perceived as assisting people whose motivations are racist. What Kammer referred to as a “smear campaign” was in fact a great example of how an environmental organization was able to detect and expose anti-immigrant extremists who were trying to hijack an environmental organization.

Unfortunately, it is not just the Center for Immigration Studies, and the attacks on mainstream environmental organizations are not as overt as Kammer’s memorandum. Negative Population Growth, an anti-immigrant group financed by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, ran an advertisement in E-Magazine in October 2009. Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) released a multi-media, multi-market ad campaign at the end of October of 2009. CAPS’s ads harshly attacked immigrants, and specifically targeted California communities that are sensitive to environmental problems. Roy Beck executive director of Numbers USA wrote about the ability of a fence to allow a desert to sprout back to life. Progressives for Immigration Reform, another anti-immigrant organization, advertised themselves as an environmental organization on environmental blogs.

These organizations are all working in tandem as a network referred to as the John Tanton Network, a network of organizations that are all connected with one another (see this map for more details). A movement is in motion to advance the notion that environmental organizations and those supporting environmental issues should take a strong anti-immigrant stance. There is no room for hatred, racism, discrimination and division in the environmental movement. What can we do about this? For starters, we can be discerning. Who are the authors and organizations behind what we read? What have they done for the causes they purport to support? One of the most important steps in combating racism is ensuring that individuals and organizations that care about the environment are not fooled by those masking themselves as something they are not.

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