by Nicole Loeffler-Gladstone
Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) recently released a new video detailing the precarious ecological balance of the Chesapeake Bay watershed region. According to FAIR, the health of an ecosystem home to 3,600 plant and animal species and 17 million people hinges on the ability of the United States government to crack down on immigration.
The continuous contamination in Chesapeake Bay, and the community-led fights against pollution, has surged back and forth since at least the 1970s when the Bay had the dubious honor of hosting one of the world’s first identified marine dead zones. A marine dead zone is exactly what it sounds like: an area of water so polluted (usually with oxygen-depleting algal growth) that marine plants and animals die. Water quality in the Bay has steadily declined, with a few small triumphs along the way such as species reintroduction.
FAIR’s video places immigration reform as the center issue and reason for the contamination in the Chesapeake Bay. FAIR even put out a study backing up these claims, in a report called, “Immigration, Population Growth and the Chesapeake Bay.” The report states that, “The solution is the implementation of a population policy that lowers immigration and restores it to a moderate level.” This train of logic conjures images of vindictive immigrants sneaking to the shores of the Bay at night armed with thousands of gallons of pollutants, ready to dump it all into the water. It implies that population growth in the Chesapeake Bay region (which is steady and high) is somehow able to generate the same amount of pollution as the industrial farms located upstream from the Bay. In fact, the FAIR video doesn’t once mention industrial farming as a key polluter in the region.
FAIR’s argument is at odds with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which is a nonprofit organization that works steadily to revive the Bay. The CBF states that nitrogen and phosphorus pollution are the most dangerous threats to the Bay, since they are the leading cause of algal blooms which create dead zones. Nitrogen and phosphorus come from many different sources, including industrial agriculture, urban runoff and sewage.
This paints a complicated picture. Yes, urban growth (and population growth) causes increased runoff due to more roads, parking lots, sewage systems, housing developments and cars. However, this does not mean that individual people who choose to move to the Chesapeake Bay region can be held responsible for environmental degradation. Individuals cannot be punished because of where they live, when the degradation taking place stems from loose government regulation. Federal and state governments, specifically the Environmental Protection Agency, are responsible for protecting the Bay and they must stand up to lobbying from industrial interests. Look here for the CBF summary of lobbying money spent by industrial interests to counter environmental measures in the Bay.
As usual, FAIR entirely misses the point. Fighting to prevent people from moving to the Chesapeake Bay region based on their nation of origin or the color of their skin is a racist and xenophobic agenda. Hopefully one day they will be able to enjoy a region that is functional for all the plants and animals that need it. And hopefully FAIR’s manipulative attempt to divide the environmental efforts taking place will fail to convince those Bay residents that are working together to demand pollution limits, water quality regulations and species protection.