Joe Guzzardi

Joe Guzzardi

On Tuesday, 12 Democratic presidential hopefuls took to the stage at Otterbein University near Columbus, Ohio, to pitch their credentials. The dozen are at the very least advocates for loose borders. Ask the candidates their positions on the environment and ecological stability, and the dozen would be on board about the importance of a green America. But the reality, which they prefer to ignore, is that open borders are incompatible with protecting the nation’s environmental future.

The candidates are more than willing to talk about the perceived benefits of Medicare for All, income inequality, gun control and fighting climate change. But record high legal immigration and quasi-open borders, an informal policy that has for decades allowed hundreds of thousands of people to come to the U.S. illegally, remain taboo, even though there are significant negative environmental consequences.

The link between immigration – illegal or legal – and environmental degradation is indisputable. Years ago, before huge illegal immigrant border surges overwhelmed agents, the Government Accountability Office issued a report that outlined the challenges that illegal crossings presented to land management agencies, specifically the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Land Management, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service and the Forest Service. The GAO found that rising illegal activity on the border and its federal lands threatens law enforcement officers, visitors and employees, and “damages fragile natural resources.” Human traffickers smuggling aliens into the U.S. have destroyed irreplaceable vegetation and natural species. Lax immigration enforcement has led to blatant disregard for the 1973 Endangered Species Act.

Various amnesties, including the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, and other immigration actions have also blatantly disregarded the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), signed into law in 1970, which obligates “any agency considering an action that will affect the environment to analyze and publicize those effects.” In a recent lawsuit, nine plaintiffs brought a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security for its crass indifference to NEPA in its immigration policies. The fallout from DHS’s ignoring NEPA has been great, the lawsuit charged. American communities have suffered from poor air quality, urban sprawl, excessive water demands, traffic congestion, school overcrowding, green space loss, including farmlands and forests, and loss of wildlife. These are inarguable conclusions.

Nevertheless, the presidential candidates embrace their commitment to more immigration. In the previous debate, Joe Biden endorsed bringing in an additional 2 million legal immigrants annually to the existing more than 1 million. Assume Biden got his wish. The annual 3 million total will need housing, transportation, education and medical care that will create pressure to develop more land. The 3 million will eventually mushroom into millions more. Once these new immigrants become lawful permanent residents, through chain migration, they can petition to bring family members from abroad. On immigrants’ needs and how to fulfill them once they’re U.S. residents, Biden and other immigration advocates remain mum.

The Pew Research Center, using Census Bureau data, projects that new immigrants and their descendants accounted for a population increase between 1965 and 2015 of 65 million, and will be responsible for a staggering 103 million more residents by 2065. Looking back at historical immigration levels, the comparison is shocking. Between 1776 and 1965, annual immigration averaged 250,000 people per year. Changes to immigration laws in the 1950s, 1960s and 1990 sent the numbers skyrocketing.

No one is calling for an end to immigration. But presidential candidates who claim to have America’s best interests at heart should campaign on returning to the traditional 250,000 immigrants per year. The 750,000 reduction would benefit the environment and the individuals who hope to enjoy nature’s bounties.

Joe Guzzardi writes for the Washington, D.C.-based Progressives for Immigration Reform. A newspaper columnist for 30 years, Joe writes about immigration and related social issues.

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(3) comments

Glen or Janice Ullman

The threat to our Democracy is not either of the major parties platforms. The threat comes from the President and his pro Russia agenda and the Republican Parties fear of Trump.


Glenn Wilson

Janice -- Can you describe in some detail what the threat is that you perceive? BTW, we have a representative republic, not a democracy; big difference.

Michael Gomez

Washington Post “ May 13, 2015 at 1:43 p.m. CDT

I often hear people argue that the United States is a republic, not a democracy. But that’s a false dichotomy. A common definition of “republic” is, to quote the American Heritage Dictionary, “A political order in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who are entitled to vote for officers and representatives responsible to them” — we are that. A common definition of “democracy” is, “Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives” — we are that, too.

The United States is not a direct democracy, in the sense of a country in which laws (and other government decisions) are made predominantly by majority vote. Some lawmaking is done this way, on the state and local levels, but it’s only a tiny fraction of all lawmaking. But we are a representative democracy, which is a form of democracy.

And indeed the American form of government has been called a “democracy” by leading American statesmen and legal commentators from the Framing on. It’s true that some Framing-era commentators made arguments that distinguished “democracy” and “republic”; see, for instance, The Federalist (No. 10), though even that first draws the distinction between “pure democracy” and a “republic,” only later just saying “democracy.” But even in that era, “representative democracy” was understood as a form of democracy, alongside “pure democracy”: John Adams used the term “representative democracy” in 1794; so did Noah Webster in 1785; so did St. George Tucker in his 1803 edition of Blackstone; so did Thomas Jefferson in 1815. Tucker’s Blackstone likewise uses “democracy” to describe a representative democracy, even when the qualifier “representative” is omitted.” ....Before correcting someone, make sure you understand what you trying to correct.

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