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.

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