How politics trumps environmentalism in border wall debate

April 26, 2017

 

The anti-borders lobby recently found yet another angle to challenge the president’s campaign promises on immigration enforcement.

 

The Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group, along with Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), this month sued Homeland Security for “failing” to calculate the environmental impacts of the proposed border wall. 

 

For immigration-control advocates, the move drips with irony. 

 

Human beings are agents of pollution. 

 

Especially Americans. 

 

We consume one-fifth of the world’s oil, but are only 5 percent of its population. It’s estimated that when your average immigrant settles here, their carbon footprint jumps by a multiple of four.

 

Once upon a time, environmental groups understood the connection between immigration-induced population growth and things like urban sprawl, declining water tables, etc. For instance, bellwether of the environmental movement the Sierra Club believed up until the mid-nineties that “immigration to the U.S. should be no greater than that which will permit achievement of population stabilization in the U.S.”

 

Such sentiments actually acknowledged by CBD, at least in part. 

 

According to their website, they believe “unsustainable human population numbers” is a “critical” factor in things like “climate change”, “ocean acidification”, and even “planetary extinction crisis.” But then they get muddled. Because population is a ‘global issue that transcends national borders’, they say, “national immigration policy” is not an “appropriate target for addressing these issues.”

 

The position that population’s a global not national issue was first taken up by the Sierra Club. In justifying their flip-flop on the immigration issue, then-Executive Director Carl Pope declared at the time that overpopulation was really a “fundamentally global problem” and immigration “merely a local symptom.” “Erecting fences” was simply more like “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.” As seasoned immigration-control advocates have joked ever since, it was at this point that environmentalists literally went globalist. 

 

Now, not only has the issue been completely dropped by all major environmental establishment groups, when activists even attempt to raise the issue for debate, they’re shunnedbanned, or even accused of “greenwashing” Nazism.

 

The real reason for the about-face, however, had to do more with politics than any newfound globally-minded ideal. 

 

According to Roy Beck and Leon Kolankiewicz, two environmentalists for immigration-control, by the mid-nineties, self-appointed Hispanic leaders as well as California Democrats began threatening groups like the Sierra Club if they didn’t drop their position — The logic apparently being that all Hispanics are immigration-expansionists who’d refuse to support environmentally-friendly laws in reaction to the Sierra Club’s immigration position.

 

As then-executive director California League of Conservation Voters argued, the immigration issue could lead them to “suicide” and was “something the environmental community cannot afford.”

 

An early sign of environmentalists’ surrender came in 1971 (just one year after the first Earth Day) with the creation of the Rockefeller Commission, a blue-ribbon panel set up by President Nixon to study the impact of population growth on the environment.

 

At the hearings, one Hispanic activist took issue with the very premise of the Commission, stating “...what we must do is to encourage large Mexican American families so that we will eventually be so numerous that the system will either respond or it will be overwhelmed.”

 

In other words, more of “us” equals more power. Environment be damned.

 

No one adheres to the political maxim ‘demography is destiny’ more than CBD’s co-complainant and Grijalva. 

 

Not only was his very own congressional seat a product of Hispanic immigration, he cut his teeth in politics by reportedly aligning himself with Hispanic ethno-nationalist in the 1970s.

 

As Jerry Kammer from the Center for Immigration Studies found, Grijalva in his younger days wrote for a Hispanic ethno-nationalist newspaper called Coraje! or ‘anger’ (slogan: “Mi Raza primero!” or “My Race first!”).

 

Before joining the Democrats, Grijalva was allegedly a member of pro-reconquista group MEChA and a leader in the Raza Unida Party (the ‘United Race’), a Hispanic-only political party founded by Jose Angel Gutierrez. Among Gutierrez’s many memorable quotes include, “We have got to eliminate the gringo, and what I mean by that is if the worst comes to the worst, we have got to kill him.” 

 

Today’s environmental politics indeed makes for strange bedfellows.

 

But for those environmentalists who actually live and work on the border, the impacts of not having a fence are apparently well-understood.

 

Through a Freedom of Information Act request, my organization, the Immigration Reform Law Institute, obtained internal memoranda from federal land management agencies showing officials praising the very kind of fencing CBD’s now challenging.

 

According to documents from US Fish & Wildlife, “smuggling and interdiction activities have resulted in significant impacts to wilderness character” but fencing has “reduc[ed] the number of vehicles illegally entering the U.S.” The National Park Service agrees. The existing border fence, they state, has reduced vehicle traffic within national parks by 95 percent and has generally been “critical” for the agency’s conservation work. 

 

According to the CBD/Grijalva joint press release, DHS will “perpetuate human suffering” if it expands the existing border fence; the implication being that immigration, both legal and illegal, is a moral right (rather than a privilege). 

 

But environmentalism is supposed to entail pushing individuals to consider the carrying capacity of their natural surroundings and sometimes requires making sacrifices to certain rights and freedoms, such as mobility.

 

For the sake of the nation, the environmental establishment must return to these ideals and put politics, especially ethnic-politics, aside.

 

 

Article also published at: Dale L. Wilcox, How politics trumps environmentalism in border wall debate, The Hill, Apr. 26. 2017

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