PFIR Exaggerates U.S. Population Growth Under Immigration Reform

Lauren Taylor • Feb 19, 2013

On February 10, the deceptively-named Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR) posted a report on its spin-off website, Immigration EIS, warning that the US population could exceed 1 billion by 2200 if current immigration reform proposals were enacted.

In this draft, unnamed authors* claim that if current comprehensive immigration reform proposals are enacted, net immigration to the US would increase to 2 million people per year (an unusually high and unexplained estimate, nearly double the estimate of the US Census Bureau). Given such high levels of immigration, the report concludes that the US population would more than double by 2100, and would reach 1.168 billion by the year 2200.

While couched in objective language, the argument is an alarmist, hyperbolic response to current immigration reform proposals.

The report comes on the heels of a post by Winthrop Staples III in which he refers to babies and newcomers to the US as “additional consumer-polluters,” and details the environmentally destructive development projects necessitated by population growth. Such blatant scapegoating of immigrants for global environmental problems, not to mention misanthropy, is nothing new for PFIR, and is the sole purpose of its newer website, ImmigrationEIS.

The website itself, launched in August of last year, purports to evaluate the environmental impact of immigration on the US. The website’s full title is “US Immigration Policy – Environmental Impact Statement,” referring to its project as doing the work it feels the federal Environmental Protection Agency has failed to undertake: evaluate the environmental impact of immigration on the US. In elaborate pantomime of EPA procedure, last week’s post claims to be the draft statement, with the final statement projected to be published at the end of 2013.

To concoct these numbers, the writers used a statistical tool originally developed by Decision Demographics for the anti-immigrant think-tank Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), which came out with its own report on the subject two months ago. Both groups use their own reports to point out that immigration levels will negatively impact US population, and claim that immigration policy is “the primary means to regulate U.S. population growth.”

In addition to this analytical overlap, much of the source material cited in each report is the same. Steven Camarota, Director of Research for the Center for Immigration Studies, wrote the CIS report and is directly cited eight times in Immigration EIS’s draft reports on the past and future of the US population growth. PFIR Board President Phil Cafaro and board member Leon Kolankiewicz are the principal investigators for Immigration EIS, and have both written for CIS in the past.

Phil Cafaro, PFIR Board President

While the CIS statistics zero in on the impact of immigration policy on the changing racial demographics of the country, the Immigration EIS website chooses to focus instead on clearly strained demographic projections – extrapolating 190 years into the future. Acknowledging the lack of scientific validity in such an exercise, the authors explain: “Although these projections to 2200 are highly speculative, they do allow us to consider the potential demographic impacts of immigration policy a full ‘seven generations’ into the future.”

As the above reference to indigenous ideas of sustainability suggests, Immigration EIS is part of a broader, cynical effort to lure progressives – and environmentalists, in particular – to an anti-immigrant, population control position.

The bottom right-hand corner of the website names the group responsible for Immigration EIS – Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR). Despite its title, PFIR’s leadership, contributing writers, and funding are widely recognized as intertwined with hard-line anti-immigrant groups, particularly the constellation of anti-immigrant organizations known as the John Tanton Network.

For example, PFIR’s executive director Leah Durant was a legal analyst for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and staff attorney at FAIR’s legal arm, the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), where Arizona SB 1070 architect Kris Kobach is still Of Counsel. Board president and presumed co-author of this most recent report, Phil Cafaro, just released a book, plugged by NumbersUSA, in which he advocates reducing immigration to 200,000 people per year, and accuses his opponents of supporting “less habitat and fewer resources for wildlife; less water in the rivers for native fish; fewer forests, prairies and wetlands, fewer wild birds and wild mammals.” Cafaro goes even further in the book’s conclusion, lauding the courage of earlier misanthropic environmentalists such as Dave Foreman – also on the board of advisors for PFIR – precisely for calling humanity a cancer on nature.

PFIR’s funding tells its own tale. In 2010-2011, PFIR received $250,000 from the Colcom Foundation, the same foundation that gave $25 million to the Tanton network between 2008 and 2010. The overlap in funding, rhetorical analysis, and leadership leaves little room for doubt: PFIR remains a front group for hard-line anti-immigrant organizations, continuing to “green” that movement’s messaging for those who hold real, sincere concerns for the environment. Its latest attempts to blame immigrants for urban sprawl and resource depletion continue to demonstrate what has been clear from the beginning: there’s nothing progressive about Progressives for Immigration Reform.

*The two newest reports posted on Immigration EIS, addressing the demographic past and future of the US, do not list authors. However, Phil Cafaro and Leon Kolankiewicz are listed as principal investigators on the website.

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