I’m just now finishing wading through the Earth Day e-waste/propaganda/inspiring educational bullshit in my in-box. After a certain point, I stopped reading. Which means I almost missed my new favorite use of Earth Day, which was sent to me by FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, the largest of our anti-immigrant groups here in the US. It turns out that FAIR is deeply, deeply concerned with the ecological impact of Brown folk, and they really want us, on Earth Day, to think hard about the impact of people who are not white (and thus, of course, are not like us real environmentalists):
Now population is a real issue, but this is a compelling example of how the rhetoric of environmentalism is being co-opted for other purposes. Among FAIR’s claims to fame were its ties to the Pioneer Institute, a racist eugenicist organization, from which it accepted 1.2 million dollars over the years, before severing ties when they began to draw critical attention.. Wikipedia dryly observes that a number of its umbrella organizations don’t seem to have meaningful membership:
Choose Black America is an African American group created by FAIR. According to the The Oroville Mercury Register, the group’s founders could not name any of its members. One founder of Choose Black America, James Clingman, said “Choose Black America was just the banner under which we had a press conference”. He also said that he hadn’t spoken to or contacted the other members before FAIR organized the press conference – with the exception of his friend and fellow economics writer Claud Anderson – and would not have attended if he’d known who else was involved.
Another group established by FAIR is You Don’t Speak for Me, which describes itself as “a group of concerned Americans of Hispanic/Latino heritage, some first or second generation, others recent legal immigrants, who believe illegal immigration harms America and a guest worker amnesty will do the same.” One of the media contacts for this group is Ira Mehlman, who is also FAIR’s media director.
Whether the Southern Poverty Law Center’s accusation that FAIR is a racist hate group is accurate or not, FAIR clearly is ummm…cynical in its willingness to join up with any cause, regardless of whether there is a meaningful connection or not.
So here’s the Press Release I got in my mailbox:
On the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, a new report issued by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) explores the connection between immigration, over-population, and its detrimental impact on the environment.
FAIR’s new report, The Environmentalist Guide to a Sensible Immigration Policy examines the relationship between America’s mass immigration policies and skyrocketing population growth. It details how both are severely limiting America’s ability to make meaningful progress toward important environmental goals.
“Some environmental groups like to pretend that this correlation does not exist,” said Dan Stein, President of FAIR. “Because of pressures brought to bear by politically charged special interests demanding open borders, groups sincerely interested in advancing sensible environmental policies remain muzzled on the issue. Overpopulation fueled by uncontrolled immigration – the root cause of most resource depletion – is unfortunately deemed too radioactive to discuss in some circles.”
Since the first Earth Day in 1970, U.S. population has grown by 50 percent, or about 100 million people. U.S. population now stands at approximately 308 million and is currently growing by nearly three million a year – the equivalent of adding a new Chicago each year. By 2050, an estimated 438 million people will live in this country with more than 80 percent of the increase coming from post-2005 immigrants and their children.
This enormous population growth has more than offset our per-capita reduction in resource consumption and greenhouse gas output. More importantly, America’s projected population growth over the next 40 years will make it all but impossible to meet any of the environmental goals that we have set forth for ourselves, or those recommended under the Kyoto Protocol.
“Massive levels of immigration and unsustainable population growth are neither necessary nor inevitable,” continued Stein. “The legitimate ‘green-movement’ can advance their cause by recognizing that another illegitimate ‘green-dollar movement’ is working against their worthy goals. Industry looking to pad their pockets with cheap labor and political parties wanting to grow their constituencies through unending chains of immigration are dashing any hopes of population stabilization and environmental preservation.”
I have to admit, it is extremely well constructed, and designed to appeal to environmentalists seriously concerned with population issues. And it is certainly a warmer, fuzzier quotation than Dan Stein’s previous comments on population like this one:
FAIR’s Director, Dan Stein, has said, “It’s almost like [Asians and Hispanics] are getting into competitive breeding.”
Yup, this was way more politic. Or than FAIR founder John Tanton’s claim that we’d better seal the borders because: In a 1997 interview, Tanton said that unless U.S. borders are sealed, America will be overrun by people “defecating and creating garbage and looking for jobs.”
The problem is that we all know that when people rail against “immigrants” they don’t mean those nice Belgian folks who moved into the neighborhood. Don’t get me wrong – there are real strains placed on communities and cultures by immigration, and real issues of local carrying capacity to be dealt with. But not by the kind of people who fan hostility against Hispanic, Asian and Arab immigrants.
FAIR’s latest press release praises the Arizona governor for signing one of the most racist laws in history, allowing authorities to stop anyone who looks like they could be an illegal immigrant in complete violation of the Fourth Amendment. Now, I wonder what those people will look like? Saturday Night Live got it right:
“This week Arizona signed the toughest illegal immigration law in the country, which would allow the police to demand identification papers from anyone they suspect is in the country illegally. I know there are some people in Arizona worried that Obama is acting like Hitler, but can we all agree that there’s nothing more Nazi than saying, `Show me your papers?’
“There’s never been a WWII movie that didn’t include the line, `Show me your papers.’ It’s their catchphrase. Every time someone says `Show me your papers,’ Hitler’s family gets a residual check. So heads up Arizona, that’s fascism. I know, I know, it’s a dry fascism, but it’s still fascism.”
I have real doubts (ok, actually I have no doubts whatsoever that this connection to Earth Day is complete bullshit, but for journalistic purposes the other sounds better ;-)) that any real environmental concern underlies FAIR’s analysis. Global Warming is a global problem (see, that’s what the word “global” means), and only the most ridiculous kind of number manipulation allows us to blame our failure to meet Kyoto quotas on immigration, rather than lack of national commitment.
What I think is important about this is the way that our collective ecological crisis can so easily be converted to the argument for all sorts of terrible underlying assumptions. We’ve seen that in Britain, where the British National Party on the far right has already taken up peak oil as one of its driving causes, encouraging it to push for an all white Britain (with firm but voluntary incentives for immigrants to go home – even if they haven’t been “home” for four generations…ummm…yeah.)
As our collective predicament becomes more evident, it will be used by everyone, on every side of the issue. And it is the absolute obligation of everyone who cares about the kind of future we have to point out when those misusing events are wrong, and immoral.