Anti-Immigrants Racists Front as Environmentalists

By Seth Freed Wessler Jul 31, 2008

Some of my favorite left-of-center magazines have been running a peculiar ad recently. It presents an ominous image of a bulldozer clearing away an opening in the middle of a lush green forest. The large font below the image reads “One of America’s best selling Vehicles.” At first pass, the ad appears a clear, and reassuringly old-fashioned environmentalist plea to save the forests from development and suburban sprawl. But look any further at the print below the image and you’re quick to notice that the ad’s real concern is not conifer growth but “population growth”; or, to be more precise, the growing population of immigrant families in this country. The ad is part of campaign run by a number of reactionary anti-immigrant groups including the notorious FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform), American Immigration Control Foundation, NumbersUSA among others calling themselves “America’s Leadership Team for Long Range Population-Immigration-Resource Planning”. Their mission: to stop the torrent of immigrants who, they say, are responsible for “ripping up some of the most beautiful farms and forests in the world and turning them into concrete and asphalt suburbs”, in addition to the no less important issues of overcrowded schools and emergency rooms and the worst traffic problems in the world. The ad offers up restrictionist drivel of the kind we might expect from Fox News. So what are these ads doing in some of this country’s most widely read and respected sources of left-liberal journalism and criticism? Anti-immigrant racists, it would seem, may be changing their tact, betting on the possibility that liberals may well put their environmental concerns above their social ones if they can be convinced that the two are mutually exclusive. Countering this tactic will take a broad and energetic progressive agenda that centers those who are most marginalized, in this case immigrants. Immigrants along with other communities of color are much less the cause of environmental degradation than the recipients of its most vicious side effects. Environmentalists should concern themselves with the fact that communities of color are filled with toxics emitting factories owned by corporations. These and government’s refusal to take planetary health seriously are the real targets.