Our VoiceImmigration

Powershift Attendees Challenge Efforts by Anti-Immigrant Groups to Green Bigotry


Guest Blogger • Apr 15, 2011

By Jesse Sanes

William Ryerson

This weekend youth from around the country are converging in Washington for the 3rd annual Powershift conference. Over the course of the next few days, students, other young people and allies will participate in movement building workshops, direct actions and organizing to combat global warming. Youth are coming to the capital to promote solutions to the country’s current addiction to fossil fuels and in order to curb deadly problems that propel climate change.

Powershift attendees are concerned with many different approaches to mitigating global warming. They seek solutions to global warming through invigorating a new green economy, tackling social inequalities that spawn over-consumption and bringing coal power to a halt.

For example, in a conference tract called “Front-line Communities,” attendees will work to strengthen solidarity between the climate movement and communities that are directly impacted and face disproportionate health risks from the dirty fossil fuel industry.

But, while these youth are working hard to strengthen their environmental justice platform, just down the street organizations are using environmental degradation as a way to point fingers at people living in those very front-line communities.

Among them is anti-immigrant group Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR).  William Ryerson, the President of PFIR, views immigration to the U.S. as an environmental concern.

Ryerson is a long time proponent of the notion that addressing ecological issues is best done through lowering population levels.  He founded the first Chapter of Zero Population Growth (ZPG) at Yale and went on to serve executive positions at regional and national levels of the organization.  Ryerson sees reducing global population as a component to curb climate change and reducing environmental degradation. Ryerson sees domestic population control as crucial to managing environmental problems in the United States.

His ideas about reducing population in the US have unfortunately allowed him to become a perfect lesion for the John Tanton Network.  One man is at the heart of the most influential anti-immigrant network in the country. This man, John Tanton, has created an empire of organizations consisting of lobbyists, lawyers, legislators, and “experts” that have permeated the very depths of social and political debate.

Ryerson’s leadership in PFIR should not go unnoticed by real environmentalists concerned with climate justice.  PFIR is a front group for the Tanton Networks’ flagship organization Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). John Tanton’s colleague Roy Beck (and former consultant and editor of Tanton’s quarterly journal, The Social Contract Press) helped staff PFIR by circulating an employment letter for PFIR’s executive director in June 2008.

The Social Contract Press has also published a special issue dedicated to PFIR. The issue highlights anti-immigration policy as a non-ideological issue that liberals, progressives and the right alike can rally around as an effective way to reduce population in order to combat global warming and other environmental problems.

The current executive director of PFIR is Leah Durant who used to be the a legal analyst for FAIR and worked on revamp FAIR’s legal arm, Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) which plays as instrumental role crafting invasion state level anti immigration legislation.

Ryerson was also an advisory board member for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) which has undeniable ties to white supremacy.  Rick Oltman, the former media director of CAPS is a member of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CofCC) the reconstituted White Citizens Council.

Ryerson is the founder and President of Population Media Center, the President of the Population Institute, a senior Population Fellow at the Post Carbon Institute, and President, Chair and on the Advisory Council to Population Matters.

Ryerson takes on overpopulation with anti-immigrant group, Progressives for Immigration Reform.  There are dangers for the environmental movement if leaders like Ryerson continue to use population as a way to misdirect blame for the complex issues of climate change.  Join efforts to take a stand against the greening of hate, and shift power toward a more realistic and united environmental movement.

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