Nativism Watch

Anti-immigrant groups again welcomed at Earth Day Texas

Imagine2050 Staff • Apr 19, 2017
Image source: Getty Images
Image source: Getty Images

The annual Earth Day Texas conference and exposition, scheduled for April 21 – 23, will once again host notorious anti-immigrant groups. These groups have long sought support for anti-immigrant policies by peddling the false message that immigrants are the cause of environmental degradation.

NumbersUSA, a leading anti-immigrant grassroots organization, and the deceptively named Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR) will both have exhibition booths at the conference. Since its founding, PFIR has served as an anti-immigrant front group, courting liberal audiences to its cause of scapegoating immigrants for the country’s environmental problems. NumbersUSA serves as the grassroots arm of the organized anti-immigration movement. The group is run by extreme immigration reductionist Roy Beck, who is perhaps best known for his dehumanizing presentations comparing human beings to gumballs.

Both groups, while bigoted in their own right, also have ties to white nationalist and eugenics advocate John Tanton, the architect of the modern day anti-immigrant movementDespite efforts by the Center for New Community and other civil rights groups to alert event organizers to these group’s racist agenda, they have consistently chosen not to disinvite, or distance themselves, from these outfits.

Earth Day Texas was founded–and continues to be underwritten–by Dallas developer Trammell S. Crow. Crow is known for backing anti-immigrant policies including an anti-immigrant housing ordinance in Farmers Branch, Texas that was found to be unconstitutional.

Last year, the Austin affiliate of the the Sierra Club pulled out of Earth Day Texas, writing in a statement: “We cannot, in good conscience, support an event nor its main funder if it encourages anti-immigrant and racist sentiments.” Other environmental groups have also voiced their concerns about anti-immigrant undertones at the event.

Anti-immigrant group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) exhibited at Earth Day Texas last year, but will not have an exhibition booth this year. Instead, it is currently financing an online campaign to build an environmentally catastrophic wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Of the anti-immigrant groups that regularly exhibit at Earth Day Texas, FAIR is the only one that has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. (We have to wonder: Is Earth Day Texas perhaps trying to rebuff criticism? If so, they’ll have to exclude all anti-immigrant groups, not just one.)

Seeking to inject anti-immigrant sentiment into environmental debates is not a new tactic of the anti-immigrant movement. Anti-immigrant groups continue to promote the false narrative that immigration-fueled population growth is a leading cause of environmental degradation, willfully ignoring the impact of corporations and government regulations on industry (or lack thereof).

Using population alarmism to stoke anti-immigrant sentiment can be traced back to the movement’s founder, John Tanton, who with others argued that population control is key to environmental preservation. To address this false concern, Tanton and his colleagues promoted anti-immigrant policies as well as coercive sterilization. 

In the early 2000s, Tanton and others attempted to place immigration restrictionists on the Sierra Club’s board of directors in hopes of forcing the group to adopt hardline anti-immigrant positions.

Earth Day Texas advertises that it is intended to “celebrate progress, hope, and innovation” for the environment. It should continue to do so without giving a platform to bigotry.

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