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Are Illegal Immigrants to Blame for Climate Change?

In the latest issue of The Nation, Andrew Ross looks into the strange allegiance between climate fears and nativism. It’s worth checking out the whole piece, but here’s a general summary: To win support for tougher border control, pro-enforcement groups such as Federation for American Immigration Reform and Center for Immigration Studies are making the argument that illegal immigration is bad for the environment.

The main argument by the groups is that immigration increases the population, which in turn creates urban sprawl, increases carbon emissions, and hurts open spaces, particularly near the border. With titles like CIS’s “The Environmental Argument for Reducing Immigration to the United States” and FAIR’s “How Immigration Hastens Destruction of the Environment,” both groups have extensive reports documenting these claims.

Most of the assertions are dubious at best, Ross reports. Suburban sprawl is generally populated with U.S. natives, and energy use is damaging not due to population size, but how it is produced and consumed.

Still, the effort to frame immigration enforcement around environmental concerns in an interesting one. Rather than building a border fence, Ross argues the key to dealing with these issues is through comprehensive immigration reform and a climate bill:

FAIR’s shadiness aside, there are real connections between clean energy policy and immigration reform—the two bullets Congress is trying its best to dodge. But they will be made only if we swear off single-issue politics and push for decriminalization and decarbonization at one and the same time.

The Environmental Argument For Reducing Immigration To The United States

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