In yet another attempt to pander to progressive soft spots, the anti-immigrant Federation For American Immigration Reform (FAIR) has released a report based on the mixed-up notion that, in order to reach U.S. greenhouse emission goals, the U.S. must curb immigration. FAIR complains that Congress is currently considering caps on energy consumption, but not on population growth. The organization recommends implementing a strict “population policy” that is tied to immigration.
The report itself is written by FAIR’s Director of Special Projects, Jack Martin, a former U.S. Consular Diplomat with no environmental, scientific, or academic credentials to speak of. In the report Martin uses anecdotes and inferences to connect rising U.S.energy consumption to immigration levels. Without a single citation other than three endnotes included in the back of the report, Martin spends nine pages arguing that energy consumption has little do with how energy is being used and everything to do with the immigrants who are using it. FAIR’s corresponding press release claims:
[The report] addresses America’s stifled immigration policy debate: it finds that America’s massive immigration-fueled population growth was the single largest contributing factor to the nation’s increased energy consumption and carbon emissions over the past 35 years. Even without a massive amnesty for illegal aliens supported by President Obama and congressional leaders, immigration will be the driving factor as U.S. population approaches the half billion mark by mid-century.
King’s argument also invokes xenophobic panic by referencing the fertility rates of Hispanic women. His whole thesis is ultimately based on the dim-witted idea that the entire energy problem would be resolved if immigrants go away, not taking into account that they will also be consuming energy in their home countries.
Aside from basing his findings on flawed logic, King has his facts wrong. When complaining about the unfairness associated with the stringent Kyoto Protocal standards, King claims that immigration is the main reason that the rate of population growth is so much higher in the U.S. compared to Europe and therefore curbing immigration is the only way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, according to the World Resources Institute, the U.S. is home to 23% fewer people than the European nations of the EU-15, yet still produces 70% more greenhouse gases.
Scapegoating immigrants is easy, actually solving our environmental problems is a lot more complicated. FAIR fails to recognize that energy consumption is driven by a host of factors totally unrelated to population size, such as societal dependence on polluting and non-renewable fossil fuels; utilization of energy-efficient technologies; and the development of mass transit systems that minimize individual automobile use. Along those lines, the McKinsey Global Institute offers a more viable solution to residential energy consumption levels: promoting policies that boost energy productivity — the level of output achieved from the energy consumed — such as building shells, compact fluorescent lighting, and high-efficiency water heating.
FAIR isn’t the only group to blame immigrants for environmental problems — they join the ranks of hate and restrictionist groups like the American Immigration Control Foundation, the Social Contract Press, and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), which last month released a report entitled “The Environmental Argument for Reducing Immigration to the United States.”
Andrea Nill is an Immigration Researcher/Blogger for ThinkProgress.org and The Progress Report at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Andrea holds a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University in Political Science with a concentration in Latin American Studies and Law and Society. Prior to joining the center, Andrea was a Communications Associate at the Immigration Policy Center where she founded the blog, Immigration Impact. Andrea was also a Communications Specialist at the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), specializing in bilingual public relations. Andrea was born in Guatemala and grew up in upstate New York.