Our VoiceImmigration

Anti-Immigrants Believe Third Time’s a Charm for Greens


Eric Ward • Aug 19, 2009

This morning I discovered a quote from the Christian Bible that reads, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” The environmental movement, if it is to remain politically relevant, would do well to remember this in the coming years as anti-immigrant bigots continue to focus their attentions and resources towards the green movement. Environmentalists’ responses will impact the movement’s relationship with their communities, especially those of color, for decades.

Controversial anti-immigrant organization the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) announced yesterday that it will be holding a “debate” called Immigration, Population, and the Environment, which will be held in the Murrow Room of the National Press Club in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, August 25, at 9:30 AM. The Center for Immigration Studies is becoming ever more infamous for its ties to political extremists, with white nationalists prevalent among them.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a national civil rights organization, Mark Krikorian, Executive Director of CIS, spoke in 2007 at the Michigan State University chapter of Young Americans for Freedom.  At the time of Krikorian’s speech, the Young American’s chapter had been widely covered in the media for staging controversial events like “Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day,” a “Koran Desecration” competition, and posting “Gays Spread AIDS” fliers across MSU campus. SPLC, as it’s worth noting, recognizes that chapter as a hate group.

Krikorian also seems aloof to the fact that he was part of a speaker’s series that included Nick Griffin, a Holocaust denier who heads the fascist British National Party, and white nationalist Jared Taylor of the revamped White Citizens’ Councils, a pro-segregation group operating from a rhetorical platform of white supremacy.

The Center for Immigration Studies also regularly circulates to its membership articles produced by the white nationalist website VDARE. VDARE is named after Virginia Dare, allegedly the first white child born in the Americas. Under the guidance of Krikorian, these affiliations and comminglings are not so much happenstance as they are representative of an organization seeking to fix itself at the sword tip of contemporary white nationalist organizing.

CIS was founded by John Tanton, who also founded the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR); subsequently, CIS takes root in the John Tanton Network of anti-immigrant front groups and spin-off organizations who have co-devised rather sub rosa the transparent illusion of a mass movement. John Tanton’s relationship to white nationalism has been covered extensively in the blogosphere.

For their part within the illusion, CIS was designed to serve as the pseudo-think tank of the Network. As Tanton said at the time, according to documents obtained by the Center for New Community, “For credibility, it [CIS] will need to be independent of FAIR, though the Center for Immigration Studies, as we’re calling it, is starting off as a project of FAIR.” Even today, CIS maintains it’s image as a neutral beltway think-tank while behind the curtain it serves as a strategic arm for Tanton’s anti-immigrant network.

Two of the three panelists for CIS’s Immigration, Population and the Environment “debate” also have deep-seeded relationships with the John Tanton Network.

  • Philip Cafora, who works with CIS, is a co-author of the group’s recent paper entitled “The Environmental Argument for Reducing Immigration to the United States.” Mickey Fitzpatrick, M.A., a doctoral candidate and instructor at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, explains how “Dr. Cafora posits in his writings a controversial belief that immigration and immigrant rights impinges on his (and others) freedom to lead his understanding of a good and virtuous life.” He continues by explicating that what truly buttresses Cafora’s philosophy is a hardened belief in a “moral obligation to protect such a way of life by arguing that a reduction in immigration not only protects the environment and its resources (which he believes are burdened by immigrants), it also fosters the ‘good life’ as he and others know it.”

That is to say, bashing immigrants is the way to perpetuate and sustain all semblance of  “the good life.”

  • Also participating in the three person panel is Don Weeden, Executive Director of The Weeden Foundation. CIS’s own media release fails to mention that Weeden’s foundation has funded CIS since at least 2002 and that the foundation’s president sits on the board of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) from which CIS was created. In addition, the Weeden Foundation consistently funds Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS). CAPS staffer Rick Oltman was a former regional director for FAIR and was also named as a member of the white nationalist Council of Conservative Citizens.
  • Continuing with the theme of illusions, CIS hopes to gloss the “debate” with a thin veneer of credibilty solely by inviting respected environmentalist Andrew Light to participate alongside their own ringers. Light is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and Director of the Center for Global Ethics at George Mason University. Let’s hope that Light is wise enough than to wax intellectual with individuals and groups with fundamental ties to active white nationalists.

Environmental organizations and activists, whether renown or relatively unknown, cannot afford to allow anti-immigrant activists to co-opt the language and debates of their movement. Moreover, local and national environmental leadership should seize these resurgent attacks as opportunities to speak out fervently against the elements organized bigotry lurking in their midst.

Thirty years ago moderates within the Republican Party remained on the sidelines as radicals instilled a so-called Southern Strategy steeped in anti-black racism into their party platform. Now rejected by most people of color due to their relationship to a legacy of bigotry, today, the Republicans’ shrinking membership is quickly sinking the GOP’s pathos into political irrelevancy and a nervy reliance on Third Position candidates to serve as pathways into regional pockets of disillusioned constituents.

If the environmental movement continues to allow the John Tanton Network “to walketh about within its midst,” its fate will be the same.

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