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Anti-Immigrant Groups Continue Greenwashing Campaign

By Alexander Zaitchik on October 8, 2010 - 10:25 am, Posted in Anti-Immigrant

Progressives For Immigration Reform (PFIR) held its inaugural conference Tuesday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The small, invitation-only, one-day conference was entitled, “The First National Conference on Immigration, Conservation, and the Environment.” The conclave is just another example of PFIR’s cynical greenwashing campaign to recruit environmentalists to the anti-immigrant cause by blaming them for urban sprawl, overconsumption and a host of other environmental problems.

Many speakers at PFIR’s event had links to John Tanton, the racist founder of the modern anti-immigration movement. Representatives from NumbersUSA and the Center for Immigration Studies—groups founded by Tanton—participated. The incestuous nature of the Tanton network was embodied in the person of PFIR Executive Director Leah Durant, who formerly was employed by the Federation for American Immigration Reform’s (FAIR) legal arm, the Immigration Reform Law Institute. FAIR, which the Southern Poverty Law Center lists as a hate group, was founded by Tanton, who still serves on the group’s board. For a time, Durant also was part of Choose Black America, a FAIR front group supposedly representing the interests of African Americans concerned with high levels of immigration. The group disintegrated not long after its first press conference, which was paid for and stage-managed by FAIR.

According to the Center for New Community, Tuesday’s conference discussions addressed the topics that have long consumed Tanton-linked pseudo-environmental front groups: “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.” The conclusions reached were, of course, preordained by the bigotry that has always guided Tanton’s 30-year project to inject race hate into environmental politics. Conference participants blamed immigrants for being responsible for everything from increased traffic to high gas prices to looming resource scarcity.

There is nothing new about this tactic. As early as 1986, Tanton was writing in private memos to his colleagues, “The Sierra Club may not want to touch the immigration issue, but the immigration issue is going to touch the Sierra Club!” For several years, Tanton and his allies made concerted efforts to turn the Sierra Club into an anti-immigrant organization. They came very close in 2004, when anti-immigrant candidates nearly secured a majority of the club’s board. The SPLC played a pivotal role in pushing back against those efforts, writing a letter to the club’s board warning of the impending takeover and running its co-founder Morris Dees for the club’s board so that his candidate’s statement could warn environmentalists about the anti-immigrant campaign.

  • Deep Ecology

    For Beholder,

    Thank you for your comment. Main hope is that readers recognize the many environmentalists and ecologists who support true sustainable economics/lifestyle across the racial/ethnic spectrum do so because of a genuine concern for our natural home and the quality of life of its inhabitants. Recommend a visit to the Deep and website if you wish to learn more.

  • beholder

    Deep Ecology,

    I won’t pick nits over certain points because I understand and broadly agree with your argument vis-a-vis humanity within the earth’s ecosystems.

    However I take serious theoretical and practical issue with the concept of human migration over geopolitical borders as a serious obstacle to sustainability.

    Within the spectrum of actions and political decisions which can be taken to address the question of population growth and sustainability, there is still nothing in your argument that convinces me we should prioritize immigration enforcement.

  • Deep Ecology

    For Beholder

    You and I have communicated about this issue before. Within our community (deep ecology) there is some debate about what should be our focus and concern. It is always divisive, this debate between human social justice and concern for the web of life that sustains those humans.

    Most of us are in broad agreement about the following points however:

    1. The well-being and flourishing of human and nonhuman life on Earth have value in themselves (inherent value). These values are independent of the usefulness of the nonhuman world for human purposes.
    2. Richness and diversity of life forms contribute to the realization of these values and are also values in themselves.
    3. Humans have no right to reduce this richness and diversity except to satisfy vital human needs.
    4. The flourishing of human life and cultures is compatible with a substantial decrease of the human population. The flourishing of nonhuman life requires such a decrease.
    5. Present human interference with the nonhuman world is excessive, and the situation is rapidly worsening.
    6. Policies must therefore be changed. These policies affect basic economic, technological, and ideological structures. The resulting state of affairs will be deeply different from the present.
    7. The ideological change is mainly that of appreciating life quality (dwelling in situations of inherent value) rather than adhering to an increasingly higher standard of living. There will be a profound awareness of the difference between big and great.
    8. Those who subscribe to the foregoing points have an obligation directly or indirectly to try to implement the necessary changes.

    Most of us support decentralization, the creation of ecoregions (why we oppose immigration), the breakdown of industrialism/capitalism in its current form, and an end to authoritarianism. (Many deep ecologists support some form of anarchism, esp in Europe)

    Simply put, the social justice argument puts a man centered point of view front and center, considers mans welfare and his wellbeing as sufficient justification/rationalization for environmental exploitation and if required, total elimination of said life/environment if man needs it. The question never answered by the social justice side, is once this web of life is destroyed, where does that leave man? Can we live in a world without the intricate web of life that we are part and parcel of?

  • beholder

    Deep Ecology,

    Like salmonella, the measure of untruth in your argument taints the entire batch.

    Yes, this issue has been co-opted by bigots and nativists, that much is true. And there may be some truth in the thesis that immigrants to developed countries will increase their per capita consumption, and thereby contribute to emissions of carbon, solid waste, etc.

    However, it is also true that to view ecology without taking into account the quality of life of human beings is fundamentally flawed.

    Furthermore, in order to meet the demands of populations in developing countries for food, clothing, shelter and public health, governments in those countries have little option but to pursue unsustainable practices such as strip mining, deforestation, energy generation with large environmental impact. They also must contend with mass migration within their own countries to urban areas with economic activity, creating burdens on landfills, water treatment, infrastructure and so on that lead to short term solutions and partial fixes.

    The demographics of immigration to developed countries are piddling when compared with the most serious of ecological problems on the planet. The argument that preventing immigration is supposed to help quickly falls apart when you look at what happens in the would-be immigrant’s country when he or she remains.

  • beholder

    Carter, good analysis.

    I have found most arguments, and by this I mean the overwhelming majority, against unauthorized immigration fall into the category of looking for facts to substantiate opinions.

    When those facts are put in context, they no longer justify the strength of the opinion.

    Some examples:

    The fact: An unauthorized immigrant kills a cop in Houston, a crime that “need not have happened”. The opinion: all unauthorized immigrants represent a threat to public security, and are killing off citizens left and right. The truth: while crime by immigrants occurs, statistically (by comparing police and prison records with population data) this happens in much smaller proportion than the native born population. In other words, unauthorized immigrants actually reduce crime per capita in the areas where they are found.

    The fact: unauthorized immigrants use hospital emergency rooms which go unpaid and are either written off by the hospitals as loss or charity, or are billed to medicare and reimbursed by the public. The opinion: this situation is bankrupting hospitals, draining medicare, and continues because immigrants prefer not to pay for these services. The truth: Medicare fraud by hospitals (double billing, etc) is about 20 times larger than the cost of indigent care for the immigrant population; in Texas, which has one of the largest unauthorized immigrant populations, there are no shortage of hospitals or emergency room services; and, immigrants have no option to buy insurance so their only recourse is the emergency room.

    The fact: some people broke the law when they entered the country without a visa. The opinion: all unauthorized immigrants are by nature scofflaws and criminals. The truth: 40% overstayed a valid visa, changed jobs, dropped out of school, etc, but entered legally through immigration checkpoints and would regularize their situation if there was sufficient flexibility in the laws. The other 60% may have broken the law upon entering, but statistically are less likely to commit crimes once here because they wish to stay invisible and continue working.

    I could go on and on: there are other examples about tax rolls (immigrants contribute but can’t receive social services), welfare, “stealing” American jobs (immigrants actually create jobs and help the economy prosper), and so on.

    The environmental greenwashing is merely the latest of a long line of lies aimed at creating enough doubt and anger that the facts get lost in the screaming.

  • Carter


    It appears logical but it actually right-wight talk-show race-bait. I had heard the same logical premise before and indeed it seemed a red herring to me as well. The cute little come back is that the amount of people who commit violent crime in the USA is an even smaller percentage (less than a million). This, the argument continues that if even half of that number (5.5 million) pay no income taxes, use public services and do not contribute to the interaction of economic growth by sending money earned under-the-table out of the country, this deprives the country of a tax base which consumes instead of pays into a social security net and a drainage on an over taxes (non-economic) health care system & law enforcement system.
    It’s bigot bait because many of the oft-quoted statistics can be manipulated to show a drainage that “need not be there.”
    This in turn is used to attack a select group even if there is disparaging numbers that show that the FICA taxes from those who work “above the table” will be placed into the net financial system which those who are illegal will never see a dime of….. A “back and forth” argument is created whose result is that ‘why do we want “these people” here in the 1st place’?
    It’s a placebo to discuss numbers rather than human needs.
    Just as the “human needs” discussion becomes one of “we can’t be the world’s policeman or we cant be the world’s doctor.”….. It’s very clever when an audience exists of financially impacted individuals in a shaky economy, etc.
    The end result however is to point to a ethnic group when this technique is co-opted by bigots. It’s an audience enhancement when used on a economically strained public looking for a “quick fix”.

  • Deep Ecology

    For Carter

    In short, yes. The issue of social justice in favor of an open borders policy is founded on a moral construct, broadly put that those less well off should have equal access to the wealth and prosperity of the West. Nativists make the moral argument that societal cohesiveness, blood and soil identity, and cultural unity form nation-state bonds that make for a healthy and broadly unified society. Deep Ecology recognizes that these are largely questions to “how shall we then live” ethical constructs created by man within a social context. Morality and ethics allow us to live sustainably within a complex social structure, but largely ignore man’s place within the natural world, a world governed not by morality and ethics but natural law.

    We can, as tool users and innovators, manipulate our natural environments enough to permit very high population densities. The limits imposed by nature begin at the available energy required to support individual life. Since this energy is finite, cannot be created or destroyed, as population density increases/energy available to sustain individual lifestyle decreases, with a corresponding decrease in quality of life. This equation is absolute. As this energy is harvested to sustain life, resources must be harvested and the natural world exploited/reduced. Again, a finite resource base dictates an ultimate finite population base. Even supposedly “sustainable” energy sources extract a price, raw materials mined and processed to produce manufactured tools to harvest wind ( and huge transmission corridors), deserts covered by solar harvestors (and huge transmission corridors), all with roads and infrastructure competing for land needed to raise food to support the increased populations needs. Once we have utilized virtually ALL of the natural world for our simple lifestyle needs, we have to answer the moral and ethical question of what right do we have to not only be the single most dominant species on earth, but virtually the ONLY species left on earth?

  • Deep Ecology

    Beholder is correct. 11 million illegals do not of themselves constitute a “tipping” point. First world residents consume resources at a much higher rate than emerging or third world inhabitants. Our need to consume resources at an ever increasing rate is driven by our culture/economic system that demands expansive and continuing growth no matter what the consequences, be it the biosphere or indigenous peoples. That growth fuels population growth, which leads to more resource exploitation with an inevitable end state that can only be described as global systemic collapse of the entire world ecosystem. The culture of limitless growth, coupled with a globalist/corporate-state/capitalist system will collapse, our ecosystem is finite and measureable, thus making it inevitable. Xenophobes, nativists, and racists that use this argument to limit or stop immigration are right about the issue, but disingenuous about their real motives.

  • Carter

    I’m not totally sure that the wealthy sector of the country hires illegals. From simple empirical observation it looks like a cross section. Especially from various sources looking for a less expensive method of accomplishing a labor intensive task. That’s not always or even mostly the wealthy…….It seems it may just be the average cheap & selfish asshole.
    There ARE some Labor-busting efforts from large construction firms (especially in Tennessee) that hire illegals. Especially in Boarder States where they get caught….But they are not essentially what would be defined as “the upper 3% wealthy”.

  • beholder

    I don’t buy the greenwash.

    Unsustainable practices around the world in developing countries are due in large part to poverty. The argument that keeping people poor will help the global environment really doesn’t make any sense.

    Also there are only 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States. How can 11 million people consuming more per capita be a priority when there are 300 million people in the country?

    It’s a red herring.

  • beholder

    Minnie — you asked my opinion, and I agree entirely.

  • Carter

    Deep Ecology:

    Are you say that our resources are finite & that if we don’t address the larger scope agenda the social justice models will fall by the way-side due to greater impact from depletion factors?

  • Deep Ecology

    Greenwashing xenophobia and racism harms the real scientific debate about carrying capacity and limited finite resources exploited by the “growth at any cost” Globalist/Corporate-State/Capitalist system. Deep Ecology addresses this problem in a multi-racial forum of international academics and scientists who are in broad agreement that our civilization and the maintenance of a healthy ecosystem are incompatible. Arguing in favor of growth, be it from increased fertility or immigration, ignores the inevitable consequences of that growth. Confusing social justice with the empirical limits imposed on our species by a finite environment confuses the issue. Nature doesn’t recognize morality, that is a human construct. Widespread collapse of our resource base will settle the social justice argument once and for all, and not in our favor.

  • Carter

    “Tanton’s 30-year project to inject race hate into environmental politics” is paying off rather well.

    I recently had a conversation with a professor at our local university who made her point regarding immigration by saying that “if an individual had been standing inline [to legally] enter this country and some who entered this country illegally received amnesty, it would make a joke of the law”.

    This same woman continued: “If my kids need cloths and food, does that give me the right to rob a bank? What is the difference between breaking the law on one level & not the other?”

    I asked her what she thought should be done about the issue of illegal immigration & she replied: “They (illegal immigrants) broke the law; why should there be any difference between their actions and those of any other individual?”

    This particular individual teaches environmental studies at two campuses and is VERY involved with environmental issues in several states & nation-wide. In her office are two large pictures of areas of land that are filled with discarded trash & related environmental impact issues taken at Boarder areas.

  • ruben

    they are exactly right!! look at all the destruction that the immigrants from europe have caused on this pristine continent ever since there arrival…..all the land that has been raped, miles and miles of old growth forest destroyed animal species that have become extinct or pushed to the brink of extinction all the large scale strip mining,industrial waste that pollutes the rivers and ocean all in the name of GREED!! toxic dumps every where and not to mention all the devastating diseases that were introduced by them that wiped out three quarters of the native inhabitants…..oh and by the way it is still continuing just ask bp….you know BRITISH PETROLEUM!! last time i checked britian was in europe…these people are nothing but two faced hypocrites that open there mouths before they engage there brains.

  • skinnyminny

    My last comment didn’t go through to tiny. I’ll rephrase it this time. I think tiny made a good comment, but I think he is referring to the wrong group about useful idiots. I was, more or less, thinking the useful idiots were the people protesting against their own interests, i.e. spending and smaller deficits, now the people on SSI will not receive their annual COLA next year, public services are being cut. What’s to come, pay for service, such as the sad story of the firefighters watching a man’s house burn, and schools. Meanwhile, the rich will still be able to get services, and I’m thinking at the expense of taxpayers. As far as immigration, that’s a no-win situation. The rich continues to hire them, yet, they want the average citizen to believe they are against it. J1 visa comes with rights, B1 visas don’t have rights.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    Who was the linguist who translated Tiny’s message from Moron to English?

  • Paen

    Tiny I bet if we were talking about the fugitive slave law or the law in Nazi Germany that made it illegal to hide Jews,you would spout the same kind of rant,

  • tiny

    The minutemen have never killed anyone-ZERO-and whats wrong with following the law-why do you support illegal activity–and demonize those that try to stop illegal activity –I guess you will do anything for a George Soros TAXFREE paycheck!!!!!—Hope you(The law center) can’t hire some more useful idiots for your propaganda — You are Anti-American and you use racism as your bully pulpit — I wish it was Anti-American was a bad thing! SEMPER FI

  • skinnyminny

    I get what you’re saying. But, personally, I believe they are playing both sides of the fence. Here’s why! These groups complain about illegal immigration, however, they are some of the same people who refuses to hire American workers. They usually will offer the excuse that they can’t afford to pay the wages most American workers want or need. Or, they will run a credit check, criminal background check, flat out say the American is overqualified, any type excuse not to hire. Yet, at the same time they will call Americans lazy, saying Americans don’t want to work.

    But anyway, I am packing my belongings now. I may be leaving this country by next year. I think we’re in a sad state. Meaning, I think these type groups or big businesses don’t want to come out and tell the American people that they no longer want to hire American workers. Califas gov. went to China a couple of weeks ago. Now, he says he will be going to Russia to help them with a Silicone Valley type deal. Brazil’s economy grew, so did India and China. I mean really, there was a ‘open letter to congress’ posted on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce website, almost all of the big businesses signed in support more immigration to the states – you can see the businesses that lobbied for this.

    As for me, I won’t get dragged into their mess. They are using the immigrants as scapegoats to mask the real issues, while they’re at it, if they can make money, they will! Tell me what you think on this, thanks.

  • beholder

    Their argument as I understand it is that our quality of life in the USA is not sustainable.

    Thus, the way to maximize our goodies through perpetuity is to guarantee that no one else gets a chance.

    This is because if they had enough to eat they might consume too much.