Yesterday, Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR) held “The First National Conference on Immigration, Conservation and the Environment” at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. from 8:30AM until 4:30PM. The panel included seven white male panelists. Not one woman and not one person of color spoke on the panel. Shocking? In a less then packed room, about fifty congregated to hear these, “experts” on immigration, conservation and the environment.
Why did the private, invitation-only conference host seven white male panelists and not a single voice from those most impacted by conversations around population control?
PFIR’s all day conference focused on topics that included “U.S. population stabilization;” “the population taboo;” “the impact of immigration on population size;” and “how U.S. immigration policy impedes the economic progress of developing nations and sustainability of other species.” If these panelists had their way, there would be serious consequences on the freedoms and rights of women of color globally. Not only were no women on the panel, but one of the two dozen women in the room was escorted out of the National Press Club by security.
Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR), which hosted the panel, is part of the Network that co-drafted Arizona’s draconian S.B. 1070. PFIR is part of the John Tanton Network, a network of anti-immigrant groups influenced by one man; John Tanton.
Yesterday’s conference included seven panelists: Roy Beck, Philip Cafaro, Steven Camarota, Chris Martenson, William Ryerson, Don Weeden, and Ed Barry. Roy Beck is the President of NumbersUSA, an organization founded by John Tanton. Steven Camarota is the director of research for the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), also founded by Tanton. Don Weeden, the executive director of The Weeden Foundation, is on the board of NumbersUSA. He is also listed as a “conservation leader” in the Apply the Brakes Network which, according to its website, concerns itself with “domestic population growth.” Apply the Brakes has a pronounced anti-immigration focus. The Weeden Foundation has also funded other anti-immigrant groups including NumbersUSA, CIS, and Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS).
Apparently transparency was not a highlight of the conference. William Ryerson, for example, was initially listed as representing both Population Media Center and Population Institute. However Ryerson was introduced by Leah Durant as Chair of Progressives for Immigration Reform at the event. Panelist Philip Cafaro, listed as an academic expert, also serves on the board of advisors to PFIR. Cafaro also failed to mention that he has written for Tanton Network groups, including CIS and NumbersUSA .
The majority of the panel had strong ties to the Tanton Network. Five out of seven panelists were directly associated with, and/or hold leadership positions in the Network. No wonder no women or people of color sat on the panel. Inclusive dialogue has never been the Network’s style.
Environmentalism was used during this conference to scapegoat immigrants. Steven Camarota argued that, “If population size matters to environment, then you have to look at immigration.” Roy Beck posited that, “…because Americans’ birth rates have been just below replacement-level since 1972, all the long-term population growth is due to our immigration policies.” Blaming immigrants for being responsible for environmental degradation, increased traffic, high gas prices, urban sprawl and water scarcity did not take much for this crowd. An audience member even asked about immigrants stealing the jobs of “natives.”
Neither the “The First National Conference on Immigration, Conservation and the Environment” nor the Tanton Network represent the environmental movement in the United States. Behind the backs of a growing, inclusive environmental movement, an all white male panel is trying to position itself at the forefront of America’s population and immigration debate.
Who really speaks for the environmental movement? An all white male panel or the diverse communities suffering real environmental degradation?