Our VoiceImmigration

Anti-immigrant Writer Attempts to “Green” Bigotry for Small Businesses


Guest Blogger • Apr 13, 2011

By Catherine Craig

The “green” movement has been co-opted by hundreds of groups, organizations, and even corporations. Wal-Mart, George W. Bush, and even the United States military have taken the word “green” and used it to their (fiscal) advantage. Green has come to mean anything that is sustainable or “earth-friendly.” It has also become a verb: businesses can “green” themselves by limiting their energy footprint.

When any entity uses the word to increase its financial profit, or for other such selfish purposes, I refer such use as “green-washing.” One of the more recent and creative co-opters of this practice is The Greenery, a landscaping business in South Carolina.

In a March 15 article on anti-immigrant group Center for Immigration Studies’ (CIS) website, author Dominique Peridans says that The Greenery is truly green:

“If “green” means ‘environmentally sound,’ and legal hiring creates a more respectful, more harmonious work (and civic) environment, then perhaps it has gone really green. Those supportive of such business practices cannot but wish such companies continued growth. Go green!”

Peridans has sat on panels and authored other articles and reports for the controversial organization. CIS’s website describes Peridans as “an ordained minister in the Roman Catholic tradition.”

I wanted to look into Peridans’ theory. Maybe he was right. Maybe hiring documented workers was the best way to make your company green. To conduct my research, I put myself into the role of a small business owner looking to make my business more sustainable. I sat down and googled “greening your business.” The first link that popped up was from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The website provides a guide to help your business have a lighter impact on the earth. Oddly enough, the suggestions refer to consumption practices: e.g. paper-use, energy use, water waste, and using non-toxic products. Nowhere, on any of the websites that came up in my Google search, was there advice about only hiring documented workers as a solution to business-greening.

So, what makes immigrants so unsustainable? Absolutely nothing.

In fact, according to a 2010 report released by the Center for American Progress, entitled, From a “Green Farce” to a Green Future:

  • The assumption that immigrant-driven population growth alone drives the U.S. carbon footprint is false. The 10 highest carbon-emitting cities have an average immigrant population below 5 percent, according to a 2008 Brookings Institution study.
  • The cities with the lowest carbon footprint, on the other hand, have an average immigrant population of 26 percent.
  • Immigrants, especially recent immigrants, tend to lead “greener” lifestyles than the native-born and are more likely to use public transportation and practice sustainable habits like compact living, conservation, and recycling.

Peridans is false in his assertion that the ultimate “greening” of a company can only be achieved with a certain type of worker. The motivation behind the co-option of “green” is clear: appeal to an audience sensitive to environmental problems, and convince more folks to take an anti-immigrant stance.

Knowing the hardships that undocumented immigrants face in this country, it amounts to nothing more than scapegoating to blame any of our environmental plights upon them. In fact, if we were looking for ways to become more green, we could take a few pointers from the immigrants among us, who do so very little to contribute to our global ecological crisis.

Catherine Craig is a Hampshire College student and a legislative intern working in Vermont for a farmer advocacy group. She was raised Catholic and is ashamed of how Peridans’ blog piece represents Catholicism. Reverend Peridans seems to have forgotten that Christ was an activist for the poor not for the businessman.

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