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Environmentalists Protest Anti-Immigrant Group Progressives for Immigration Reform

Rebecca Poswolsky • Apr 19, 2011

Environmentalists and activists from around the nation participated last weekend in the 3rd annual Power Shift conference.  On the first day of Power Shift, Friday, April 15, a number of young activists stood outside Progressives for Immigration Reform’s (PFIR) office building with a banner that read, “Progressives for Immigration Reform does not stand for the environmental movement.”

All of the protesters wore green t-shirts that read, “Real environmentalists stand with immigrants. The group of environmentalists was there to expose the connections between PFIR and anti-immigrant group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

The activists came to Power Shift in order to mitigate the affects of global warming though seeking alternatives including the new green economy, tackling social inequalities that spawn over-consumption and bringing coal power to a halt.  They also came out to voice their opinions about false solutions to climate change and expose groups like PFIR and FAIR that are using environmental concerns to push an anti-immigrant agenda.

The founder of FAIR, John Tanton, his colleagues, advisory board members and staff members have a long history of supporting and working closely with well-known white nationalist leaders and organizations across the nation.

The flier included information about PFIR’s leadership and their connections to white nationalist John Tanton:

  • John Tanton’s colleague Roy Beck (and former consultant and editor of Tanton’s quarterly journal, The Social Contract Press) helped staff PFIR by circulating an employment letter for PFIR’s executive director in June 2008.
  • Leah Durant, PFIR’s executive director, was a legal analyst for John Tanton’s anti-immigrant group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and helped revamp FAIR’s legal arm, Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) in 2005.
  • Frank Morris, PFIR’s vice president, is also a board member for John Tanton’s think-tank Center for Immigration Studies and is a member of the national board of advisors for Tanton’s Federation for American Reform (FAIR).
  • Vernon Briggs is the author of PFIR’s first policy paper and a close colleague of John Tanton since 1984. In 1995 Tanton solicited $25,000 from eugenicist Garrett Hardin “to enable Vernon Briggs to update his book…” according to a John Tanton letter. Briggs is currently a board member of Tanton’s think-tank, Center for Immigration Studies, and was a board member of Tanton’s quarterly journal, The Social Contract Press.

In addition to passing out fliers outside of the PFIR office building, one Power Shift attendee went up to PFIR’s office to hand deliver a t-shirt and flier to PFIR staff. Her message was simple:  “We are here for the Power Shift conference and to let you know that environmentalists stand with immigrants. We are giving you this flier that explains the connections between PFIR and FAIR and we hope you decide to change your mind about using environmental degradation as a way to promote anti-immigrant agendas.”

Located only two blocks from the capitol, the group decided to continue to flier around the area and let people know where real environmentalist stand around these issues.

Yesterday morning PFIR sent an email to its members, describing how its offices were “invaded” on Friday, and calling for donations to help “ward off these and other malicious attacks.”

It would seem PFIR is more interested in fundraising than addressing the concerns of real environmentalists.

The fun continued on Saturday at the Power Shift conference. I sat on a panel titled, “Sex and Sexuality” with Kim Lovell from the Sierra Club (Global Population & Environment Program), Kathleen Mogelgaard from Population Action International, and Tamara Poles from the Virginia Museum of Natural History to discuss ways that young people can take winnable actions to promote inclusive dialogue around population and suitability.

With a packed room of over 200, we talked about concrete steps young environmentalists can take to counter anti-immigrant attacks on women of color and immigrants.

Power Shift attendees stood strong against groups like Progressives for Immigration Reform and made it clear that environmentalists stand with immigrants as we begin to face the realities of climate change ahead and the real solutions worth fighting for.

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