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Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor?

+/-After years of delay, a comprehensive immigration bill is moving its way through the US Congress. Proponents say a nation founded by immigrants should provide newcomers a path to citizenship, while opponents say undocumented immigrants shouldn’t be rewarded for violating US laws. Overlooked in the debate is the question: Will immigration reform hurt or help the environment? Dave Foreman, a co-founder of EarthFirst!, says the US can’t sustain more people, and so we should stabilize immigration numbers. David Foster – executive director of the BlueGreen Alliance – argues that a path to citizenship will remove the sense of fear under which immigrants live and will increase scrutiny over public health and environmental abuses.

The Green Economy and a Path to Citizenship

by David Foster

David Foster is the founding executive director of the BlueGreen Alliance, a national partnership of labor unions and environmental organizations dedicated to expanding the number and quality of jobs in the clean economy.

President Teddy Roosevelt’s assertion that “far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing” rings as true today as it did a century ago. While that pursuit is something that unites us all, in today’s world many people never have a chance to work, much less to have “work worth doing.” For more than 200 years, our immigrant nation and our American Dream have inspired the world to believe that both were possible. And it’s why today, as environmentalists, we need to support an equitable path to citizenship.

The rise of immigration is not solely a US phenomenon. Globally, immigration between countries and within countries has increased dramatically as a result of a variety of factors. However, two important ones are economic desperation and climate-related disasters. The two are mutually reinforcing. As far back as 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change forecast that the greatest effect of climate change on human society would be forced migration.

… more …

What do you think: Will immigration reform help or hurt the environment?

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  During his road show promoting a comprehensive immigration bill, President Obama is fond of saying, “We are a nation of immigrants!” implying that a continuing influx of immigrants is a good thing. However, that may no longer be true. Before we create a new law concerning immigration, we need to have the debate concerning what our nation’s ultimate population should be, and if the population decided is larger than it is currently, should the increase happen now?

  The proposed Senate bill, S-744, would grow our population by over ten percent over the next decade. I can see why there is support for this action from members of both parties. Democrats seeking to increase their voting base would be happy to welcome more people to be dependent on our increasingly socialistic government, while Republicans want to please their major contributors in the business world by ensuring an excess of workers to keep wages artificially low and profits high. However, for the average American, S-744 would be a disaster.

  Historically, during the growth of our nation in the nineteenth and first part of the twentieth centuries, immigration was beneficial to our country. We needed people to fill our expanding country to maintain the claim on new territories, to provide workers for new industries, and farmers and ranchers to feed the growing population. We also needed cannon fodder to fill our armies until tactics caught up with weaponry after the First World War. With today’s increased automation, including use of robots, not only in industry, but also in farming, every year our requirement for workers diminishes.

  Let’s consider several valid arguments for a policy of immigration being no more than emigration. First is our number of unemployed and underemployed workers. We have no current shortage of workers, skilled or unskilled. The reason we cannot make a dent in the unemployment rates is that at our current immigration rate of a million a year, population increases as fast as job vacancies are filled. And allowing more unskilled immigrants is especially detrimental to our minority youth unemployment rate.

  A second reason to curtail our population growth is our infrastructure. Those of us who witnessed the building of the interstate highway were fortunate to have seen a brief period during which the result was adequate and traveling around the country was easy. Those readers who endure a daily commute in a metropolitan area know that the system is no longer adequate. Imagine the amount of time that will be added to your commute with a ten percent increase in traffic.

  A third reason to suspend the influx is to assimilate the immigrants that have arrived over the past few decades. The strength this country had was that America attracted people who wanted to work hard to have a better life. They learned our language, changed their allegiances, and, in a couple of generations, thought of themselves as Americans without a hyphenated prefix. We need to get back to the model of the melting pot, if we are to regain what made us great.

  A fourth reason concerns the natural environment. Efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay, for example, will be more difficult, if not thwarted, as additional development puts more toxic runoff into its tributaries.

  The greatest reasons to curtail our population growth concern global climate change. An immediate result of allowing an immigrant from an undeveloped country is the fivefold increase in that person’s carbon footprint. But regardless of country of origin, each increase in our numbers increases our greenhouse gas output, and whenever the countries of the world get together to require reductions of their greenhouse gas outputs, the size of our population will have a direct impact on the financial and lifestyle penalty each American will have to endure. But climate change itself is already impacting America.

  From Super-storm Sandy, to tornado outbreaks, to shoreline cliff collapses, to yearly “floods of the century”, to drought compounded wildfires and water shortages, we are discovering that there is much of this country that should not be used for residential development. And rising sea levels will add to those areas, especially along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Is anyone in government even planning for the protective infrastructure required, or relocations needed, just for current residents, much less for millions more? There are many facets to the optimum population debate we need to have.

  Since immigration fueled population growth is detrimental to America’s future, especially to the lives of working class Americans, whether skilled or unskilled, it is time for Congress to think of our citizens first, not political agendas. For a model they might look to the most admired country according to the latest worldwide poll – Germany. That economic powerhouse has a stable population and is doing fine.

By David F. Cooper on Wed, November 06, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Mass immigration will equate to severe loss of ecology. If we continue to add millions of people in the next 20 to 30 years, that means we will have to build tens of millions of more homes, gated communities, and apartment buildings to accommodate this colossal population increase. That will also means millions of acres of new parking lots to corral the millions of new carbon emitting vehicles that currently do not exist.

Say good-bye and au revoir, forever, to open space, farm land, forests, wilderness, and our sacred American battlefields.

We will then have to build tens of thousands of new big box chain stores and other commercial buildings, fast food restaurants, hotels, gas stations, hospitals and all manner of public buildings to sustain such an unsustainable population.

We will need to raise taxes exponentially so we can support the creation of new police and fire stations in order to maintain law and order in vastly sprawled neighborhoods. All First Responder fields will experience a dramatic expansion of personnel in order to meet the needs of an explosive population. And that will not be cheap! Because they are not self-funding organizations; our taxes support those vital communities.

Mass immigration is an ecological and economic nightmare. We are no longer a vastly uninhabited continent of wide open plains, remote shorelines, and serene mountains. Population must be stabilized.

By Ben in SoCal on Tue, September 10, 2013 at 6:39 am

I have been studying population and environmental issues for over 25 years and have come to believe that for the US, for other countries, and for the world – the most humane and environmental tact is to help people where they are – not to encourage them to migrate.

Migration to the US increases our own very unsustainable and growing population level with its devastating local and global environmental impacts, takes pressure off of source countries to deal with their own population growth problem, and draws away from those countries the very people who are most likely to be leaders in their native lands to help improve conditions. Some countries have asked us, in fact, to better enforce our laws to help them better their own conditions.

Population is the great multiplier!

Don’t be a deep feeler and a poor thinker. - George C. Marshall, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, 1953.

By Mike Hanauer on Tue, September 10, 2013 at 6:34 am

IF THEY WANT TO COME TO MY COUNTRY(MY FORE FATHERS WERE HERE BEFORE 1607.) WHY DO THEY TRASH MY BORDER WITH MILLIONS Of tons of trash they should all go back and work a year free picking up their trash on my border! a friend of mine has a ranch right on the border and you would not stay one night there.

By bruce saltzman on Mon, September 09, 2013 at 6:17 pm

The continued allowance of the illegal alien invasion is what sustains the phenomenon we know as urban sprawl.  Look at large metropolitan areas such as Houston, Dallas, and other Metro areas.  What you see is that the smaller homes from 50-60 years ago are now minority enclaves that are within the outer rings of what we now call suburbia.  Without the ready buyers(renters) from the illegal population, people(and developers) would not be so free to continue to swallow the countryside with new streets and swimming pools.  Rebuilding at the current location would be more often the rational choice. 
Open borders = closed-in countryside.

By rollinson ford on Mon, September 09, 2013 at 1:28 pm

Living in the western US I am struck by the fact that we are living in a desert and importing/using/abusing water at astounding rates.  This is a slow-moving population disaster which is only prevented by massive amounts of money and tenuous water projects which temporarily make us think we can fill the country with people.  Fact is, we’re already overpopulated in terms of water availability.  Only a politician would think the solution is to add more people

By George Wooster on Mon, September 09, 2013 at 8:26 am

The numbers mentioned 33-45 million new citizens in the next ten years totals more than the population of Canada and more that one and a half times that of Australia, I have been to both countries and enjoyed their pristine environments, both countries have booming economies and both countries have very strict and enforced immigration laws. More people does not mean a better life for us, with the raise of immigration in the mid sixties and the seven amnesties since 1986 we are not sustainable leading to the high unemployment levels, government dependency and a deteriorating invironment.

By P. Mervyn on Mon, September 09, 2013 at 8:19 am

Send me your tired, your poor, your corrupt, your criminals, and your terrorists yearning to bring America down…

By James Nofsinger on Mon, September 09, 2013 at 8:18 am

The United States of America is a sovereign nation; a nation of laws!  We have immigration laws currently that state it is illegal to remain in the USA without documentation or by overstaying one’s visa.  Why anyone would believe rewarding criminal illegal aliens is good for the USA confuses me.  The argument that the USA is a nation of immigrants is not valid; we are speaking of ILLEGAL ALIENS/IMMIGRANTS, not legal immigrants in this case.  To claim “we need immigrants” us a farce; we don’t need additional habitants…

By richard cranium on Sun, September 08, 2013 at 9:08 pm

Migration among nations with growing populations is simply rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Every nation has an absolute moral obligation to future generations of its citizens - AND of its wildlife, as Mr. Foreman so rightly reminds us - to limit its own population to the biological carrying capacity of its own territory. Based on the data found in Ecological Footprint Atlas 2010, the US has an ecological footprint (EF) equal to over two Americas! To reduce the US EF to no more than one America while maintaining our current quality of life, as measured by the UN’s Human Development Index (HDI), we must reduce our population from its current 314 million to at most 252 million. It’s simple high school math. Therefore, total immigration should immediately be reduced to no more than the replacement rate, and our relevant laws fully enforced - as we already do currently to protect our national parks and wilderness areas from excessive human impact.

By Ron on Sun, September 08, 2013 at 7:48 pm

The rapid growth in the population of the U.S. due to Legal & Illegal “immigration” is very troubling news for our future & ability to support our Citizens, resources & environment.  The U.S. is the 3rd. most populated nation on Earth already and according to NPG & NumbersUsa, could reach close to half a Billion before too long.  We need to greatly reduce Legal immigration & stop Illegal trespassing to provide a decent life for our own Citizens, or lose the means to in the near future.

I would like to hear Earth Island speak out against our unsecured border, Amnesty, & speak for mandatory E-verify before things get beyond our ability to turn things around.


By Paul Zahn on Sun, September 08, 2013 at 6:35 pm

Mr Foster’s argument is illogical. We have 20 million + unemployed, do they not deserve the opportunity to work? There is not enough water, space or energy for those already here, bringing in more people is a population bomb that will ruin this nation and the environment. If you want to see where this nation is headed, see the link below. The Senate bill grossly accelerates these projections. Watch, and weep….

By VinceD on Sun, September 08, 2013 at 5:55 pm

America, do not need an immigration reform. The illegal aliens who forced themselves to come here illegally, should be deported and jailed in the country they came from. The US government, SHOULD make sure the borders are “IMPENETRABLE”, making sure no one will attempt pass over or dig down under or break through it. (electric-shock walls) will be installed. For those illegal aliens without any Social Security numbers, should be deported and should not receive any WELFARE benefits. Only legal immigrants and citizens should be qualified. Illegal immigrants who are employed, should be deported. Now, even Obama, should be required to show his Social Security number and his birth certificate to allowed in the US. He should be deported too. We must demand the resignation of Obama is he failed to show his REAL BIRTH CERTIFICATE, because, allowing Obama to be president, when he is not illegible, will become a devastating precedent to our Constitution, that soon, any illegal aliens has the chance to become president. Why America is having a “LOYALTY” problem with Obama, because he is not a natural born. And millions believe, he is not even a citizen, for these people believe Obama was born in Kenya like his father. Dr. Orly Taitz and Dr. Jerome Corsi could prove Obama’s ineligibility.

By Danilo on Sun, September 08, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Population increase whether it be thru immigration or native births is the 800 pd gorilla that no one wants to talk about. Energy, food, water, housing, social services, healthcare and judicial costs are all affected negatively by increased population. More demand means higher prices and taxes. Urban sprawl, loss of wild spaces and farm lands are only just part of the picture. Water shortages, especially in the West are an almost certainty. One look at the US drought map and you will see that it makes no logical sense to increase population.

US population growth is driven by immigrants and their children. We cannot save the world by bringing them all here. It is time to decide what kind of country we are going to leave for our children and grandchildren. One that values the quality of life of it’s citizens or one that mimics India or China

By quercus on Sun, September 08, 2013 at 5:36 pm

When the first Earth Day was held in 1970, US census was 203 million. Today we have 316 million - more than 50% increase in 43 years. 1970 also marked the year that US fertility rate fell to the replacement level of 2.1.  So where did the 113 million extra consumers come from?  Some is due to the phenomenon known as population momentum, but most is due to immigration. Endless pop. growth is not sustainable.

By Mark Miller on Sun, September 08, 2013 at 5:12 pm

We often hear from the environmental movement mention of the “3 Rs” Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.  How can David Foster think that massively increasing our population can somehow “reduce” our total consumption?

By Mark Miller on Sun, September 08, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Just today I saw an article online predicting that the interstate highway system is expected to get much more crowded in and near urban areas, and that we can expect Labor Day levels of traffic as a normal occurrence in the next decade or two. It didn’t mention immigration, but as we are going to increase our population around 10 percent per decade, it can’t help the situation, can it. In my area the rapid growth of cities up and down the Wasatch front has calls going out for a whole new freeway even though one was just completed a couple of years ago in the same area. In addition, mass transit has been undergoing major expansion in in the greater SLC area at the same time. When will the growth end?

By William Mosby on Sun, September 08, 2013 at 5:02 pm

I have said for many years that the United States land mass renewable resources(contiguous 48 states)can only support about 200,000,000 humans. If the population increases over that number, quality of life/environment begins to degrade. The politicians in America who want to see our population increase need to be voted out of office because they do not have the best interests of our country foremost in their thinking and actions.

I believe that some liberal politicians want to see our population expand so that the increased tax base will offset their profligate and unconstitutional spending (our national debt). In other words, they would destroy The United States for selfish and insane reasons.

Life has never been kind, BUT, because our Founding Fathers gave Americans The Declaration of Independence and Constitution, America has been the finest place to live of any other country the world has ever seen. It would be beyond tragic to see a congress of buffoons destroy the United States without a shot being fired. jf.

By Jim Fitts on Sun, September 08, 2013 at 4:58 pm

Its a no brainer that more people will cause more damage to the environment. More people=more land built on=less environment without structures for animals and people alike. More people=more water resources and energy needs. Being an environmentalist this subject has always annoyed me. No-one looks at population control to help the environment. More drivers=more pollution. Nothing good can come out of the argument that is for more people. Its honestly common sense. Name me one reason more people are good, and don’t say to grow the economy because that one is tired.

By C. Powell on Sun, September 08, 2013 at 4:50 pm

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