Our VoiceCulture

Who is the new President for Progressives for Immigration Reform?


Rebecca Poswolsky • Jun 07, 2011

By Nina Masters and Rebecca Poswolsky

Meet Philip Cafaro, the new President of Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR).  PFIR, the spin-off of controversial anti-immigrant group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), needed a new leader after William Ryerson recently stepped down.

PFIR has attempted to use progressive frames around conservation to lure environmentalists into the anti-immigrant movement.  This new change in leadership illustrates that PFIR is struggling to maintain its ties to legitimate environmentalists.  Although Cafaro, a professor at Colorado State University, teaches Environmental Ethics, he is closely aligned with the anti-immigrant movement and reductionist politics.

That is, he’s not “progressive” at all.

Cafaro’s opinions on immigration in the United States are found in a prelude to his new book Bleeding Hearts and Empty Promises: A Liberal Rethinks American Immigration. He argues that, “we need to reduce immigration if we hope to achieve our main progressive political goals, such as good wages for working Americans and creation of an ecologically sustainable society.” In the text, Cafaro also references  Roy Beck, executive director of NumbersUSA, and Leon Kolankiewicz, advisory board member of Californians for Population Stabilization-both are anti-immigrant groups.

While Cafaro might appear to be just a professor of environmental studies, he has a plethora of ties to the John Tanton Network. The Tanton Network is made up of over two dozen organizations created or supported by infamous white nationalist John Tanton.

Cafaro, simply put, is all over the anti-immigrant movement.  He is listed as a leader of the Apply the Brakes (ATB) network.  According to its website, the network is a rather innocuous gathering of “long-time conservationists” committed to stopping “unsustainable U.S. population growth.”  When queried by the Center for New Community about his ties to the ATB Network, which is littered with close ties to the anti-immigrant movement, Cafaro responded via email with the following: “Bite a Fart.”

There’s plenty in his own history as an activist that stinks, though.

In August 2009, Cafaro attended a panel discussion titled, “Immigration, Population, and the Environment: Experts to Debate Impact of Current Policies.” During the panel, Cafaro stated, “Now, if we had time, I think I could show that every major environmental problem in the U.S. is made worse by population growth.”

Cafaro has for a long time used population rhetoric to attract environment.

Cafaro also writes for  Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and Federation for American Immigration Reform (both founded by John Tanton). Also, when PFIR held its First National Conference on Immigration, Conservation and the Environment at the National Press Club in Washington DC, Cafaro was a panelist.

At the time, Cafaro was an advisory board member and had only written for PFIR. Now Cafaro is its leader.

So there you have it, the eloquent new leader of the anti-immigrant group PFIR.

Good luck to PFIR and Cafaro with maintaining any legitimacy after this point.

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