Our VoiceImmigration

Environmental Organizations Targeted by Anti-Immigrant Bigots

Jill Garvey • Sep 04, 2009

On Monday, Imagine 2050 contributor, Eric Ward, wrote about how to defeat anti-immigrant bigotry in seven days. One day focused on the Sierra Club and why we should show support for an organization that has repeatedly confronted bigotry infiltrating its ranks. If you haven’t already, click here to join the Sierra Club. If you are already a member, give a gift membership to a family member or friend.

On August 10, Southern Poverty Law Center posted this warning on its HateWatch blog:

Since his efforts to take over the board of directors of the Sierra Club with anti-immigration activists failed in 2004, UCLA professor Ben Zuckerman seems to have refocused his energies on his academic specialty, the planet and the stars. But there he was last week on CNN’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” warning about the perils of immigration. “The mainstream environmental movement has entirely dropped the ball on this issue,” Zuckerman said in a brief interview for a story about an Oregon State University report showing that having fewer children produces fewer carbon emissions. Books that tell what steps to take to ensure a greener future “don’t even mention population,” Zuckerman complained.

A physics and astronomy professor, Zuckerman was a leader of a Sierra Club takeover effort that began in the 1990s aimed at making the venerable environmental organization adopt an anti-immigration platform. Back in 1986, anti-immigration poobah John Tanton wrote then-secret memos naming the Sierra Club as a potential target for immigration activists. “[T]he issues we’re touching on here must be broached by liberals,” Tanton wrote, because conservatives would be labeled as racists. Ten years later, Zuckerman and others formed Sierrans for U.S. Population Stabilization – SUSPS – to lobby the Sierra Club to support immigration restrictions.

Despite staving off two attempts by anti-immigrant ideologues to high-jack its organization’s agenda, the Sierra Club and other legitimate environmental organizations are still targets of the anti-immigrant movement.

As Eric described in a Progressive magazine op-ed back in April,

Under innocuous sounding names such as the America’s Leadership Team for Long Range Population-Immigration-Resource Planning, anti-immigrant organizations, many with ties to political extremists, are running full-page ads in progressive magazines such as The Nation, Mother Jones and Harper’s and in newspapers such as the New York Times. The goal of these anti-immigrant groups is to lure the environmental community into an America First-style immigration policy. That won’t solve anything, and it denies the increasing economic and environmental interconnectivity of the planet.

John Tanton, the founder of the modern day anti-immigrant movement, hasn’t given up on his 30 year goal of controlling the Sierra Club. As he wrote in a 1986 memo to fellow anti-immigration cohorts, “The Sierra Club may not want to touch the immigration issue, but the immigration issue is going to touch the Sierra Club!”

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