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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.