Today, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) held an event to discuss the “environmental impact of immigration-driven population growth.” The panel discussion revolved around a paper authored by philosophy professor Philip Cafaro of Colorado State University entitled “The Environmental Argument for Reducing Immigration to the United States.” Cafaro identifies stopping immigration-driven population growth as a requisite to becoming “good global environmental citizens.” CIS’ Steven Camarota took the claim a step farther and argued that immigration reform would be a lot easier to pass than climate change legislation, so therefore the US should focus less on emissions caps and more on immigration caps.
Center for American Progress Senior Fellow and George Mason University professor Andrew Light challenged the very premise of the argument and warned against understanding climate change in terms of overpopulation and immigration. Light first wondered out loud about why the topic of immigration was being dragged into a conversation about population and argued that more focus should be placed on reducing the carbon footprint of those who are in the US — regardless of how they entered the country. He also pointed out that even if he were to accept CIS’ premise that people should live in parts of the world where they would do less harm, it would make more sense to actually encourage migration away from regions of high biological diversity along the equator to places of less bio mass, like the US. Light also highlighted the fact that Mexico has proposed one of the most progressive climate change policies, and the diplomatic fallout that could result from shutting down the borders and cutting off immigration could prove much more environmentally devastating than the CO2 emissions of immigrants. He encourages panelists to “talk about carrots before we talk about sticks” and avoid resorting to draconian policy recommendations. Watch it:
During the question and answer session, a representative from the League of United Latin American Citizens questioned the intellectual credibility of CIS’ argument considering the fact that it has been labeled a “hate anti-immigrant group.” Camarota called the claim “absurd on its base,” and while he’s right that no progressive group has labeled CIS a hate group, the Southern Poverty Law Center has described CIS as “the nativist lobby’s supposedly ‘independent’ think tank” which “has never found any aspect of immigration it likes.” Several groups which are designated hate groups such as the American Immigration Control Foundation and the Federation for American Immigration Reform have also made the same environmental argument against immigration that was presented by CIS. The question that immediately followed the confrontation illustrated the type of nativist supporters CIS has picked up:
“Being this the Center for Immigration Studies, there are several factors you consider. But I have not heard a very important factor that has not been mentioned here. See it Europe, see it Denmark, see it France, see it England, see Holland — they have had enormous problems because of the immigration they took. Not because of ecological consequences, no, because they brought new values. And this is extremely dangerous for a society. And this is what we must consider in this country — the values that the people that come in bring with them. Because this is the main cause of the fall of the Roman Empire: the immigration.”