Today: Anti-Immigrant Group to Host Annual Conference in D.C.

Guest Blogger • Oct 04, 2011

By Nicole Loeffler-Gladstone

The anti-immigrant group Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR) is set to host its second annual conference today, October 4, and it will closely follow the groundwork laid during last year’s conference.  The conference is titled “A Progressive Approach to Immigration Reform: US Immigration Policy and its Impact on Conservation and Labor.”

PFIR is one among many anti-immigrant organizations which subtly disguise bigotry with the seemingly moral high-ground of environmental conservation and sympathy toward labor activists.

In fact, PFIR is part of an incestuous network of organizations that not only receive funding from many of the same sources, but are also share leaders and a connection to white nationalist John Tanton.  As Imagine 2050 stated in a post on last year’s event:

“[Progressives for Immigration Reform] is part of the Network that co-drafted Arizona’s draconian S.B. 1070. PFIR is part of the John Tanton Network, a network of anti-immigrant groups influenced by one man; John Tanton.”

The panelists at the 2011 conference will include Lesley Blackner, Kelvin Thompson, Vernon Briggs Jr., Philip Cafaro, Frank Morris, and Ben Zuckerman.  These all appear to be new panelists, with the exception of Cafaro who spoke last year. Though this may be the first time all of these speakers are gathered in the same room, they have many firm connections to one another through the anti-immigrant movement.

Cafaro has written articles and blog postings for the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) which, along with PFIR, is part of the Tanton network.  Frank Morris sits on the Board of Directors for CIS, and is also on the Board of Directors for the Federation for American Immigration Reform.  This organization, with the infuriating acronym FAIR, is part of what the Southern Poverty Law Center calls the “nexus of the American nativist movement” (and which includes PFIR and NumbersUSA).  Equally disturbing, though not surprising given the company he keeps, Morris also spoke at a Texas Tea Party event in March of this year regarding American immigration policies. Vernon Briggs Jr. also sits on the Board of Directors for CIS.

Ben Zuckerman served on the Sierra Club Board of Directors in 2002, and during his election focused most strongly on the Sierra Club’s “deafening silence on population growth - global and domestic.”  His campaign also attempted to pin the Sierra Club’s declining membership to its perceived non-commitment to population issues.  In addition to Zuckerman’s ties to the Sierra Club, Frank Morris also ran for the Sierra Club Board of Directorship in 2011.

Lesley Blackner is known for her grassroots campaign to change the face of development and zoning laws in Florida.  Though this initially appears to have little to do with immigration issues, she publicly cites Chris Williamson, a professor of geography and a city planner, as one of her biggest influences.  Williamson has been quoted as saying that “as long as the federal government has a ‘de facto policy’ of population growth through immigration, a community has a right to self-defense.”

This sentiment seems to promote violence against immigrants or those perceived to be immigrants.  Come to think of it, the main thing these PFIR panelists have in common is their mutual ability to seamlessly interweave immigration and environmental issues.

These speakers run the gamut in their professional lives, ranging from longtime environmental activists to community organizers, to industrial labor experts.  PFIR presents itself as covering broad issues to better inform the environmental community; however, it brought these speakers together through the misguided idea that the high levels of consumption and pollution per capita in the United States is somehow hugely influenced by an influx of immigrants.

They are brought together so that they might fan the fires of class and race tensions, pitting domestic working class folks (especially African Americans and young people) against working class Latino immigrants.  They are brought together by the artful illusion, the bait-and-switch, of substituting environmental degradation for their real agenda of nativism, supremacy and xenophobia.  As the Southern Poverty Law Center states, these “activists” are fruit from the same poisonous tree and that tree is something that we, as environmentalists, must not allow to take root.

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