Immigration leads to Global Warming? Nonsense!

That was the response from a friend over IM when I mentioned the latest anti-immigrant CIS report that foresees immigrants as a major cause of global warming. The report is titled Immigration to the United States and World-Wide Greenhouse Gas Emissions and available on the CIS website.

Anticipating attacks by the pro-migrant lobby, the report claims to not “blame immigrants” but also not dismiss the large role that immigrants are playing in increasing CO2 emissions worldwide:

Some may be tempted to see this analysis as “blaming immigrants” for what are really America’s failures. It is certainly reasonable to argue that Americans could do more to reduce per capita emissions. And it is certainly not our intention to imply that immigrants are particularly responsible for global warming. As we report in this study, the average immigrant produces somewhat less CO2 than the average native-born American. But to simply dismiss the large role that continuing high levels of immigration play in increasing U.S. (and thus worldwide) CO2 emissions is not only intellectually dishonest, it is also counterproductive. One must acknowledge a problem before a solution can be found.

The issue cuts through the heart of migrant rights and environmental justice. Why is it alright for the United States to export its pollution but not import people from the countries it is polluting? What about travel and tourism, even food exportation from lavish countries to poorer ones–does that not contribute to global warming? Trade liberalization under GATT, NAFTA and CAFTA keeps chipping away at environmental protections, re: Tuna/Dolphin case.

Immigration and Global Warming are not zero-sum games. The equation Immigration ==> Global Warming does not hold up under scrutiny. As a Pacific Islander, I can say for a fact that global warming is directly leading to immigration from the “Third World” (South) to the “First World” (North). Islands like Kiribati and Tuvalu are going under water as a result of emissions by countries such as Australia and the United States (facing lawsuits in the World Court). Developing and underdeveloped countries are facing more climatic variations leading to increased agriculture and crop loss, not to mention devastation from higher magnitude hurricanes that does encourage migration to countries in the North. So instead of a definite immigration –> global warming, we also have a global warming —> immigration.

The argument assumes that if these immigrants stayed in their countries, they would not get the chance to consume like most Americans, and hence not increase their carbon footprint. Is the CIS implying that improving standards of living for people through immigration or development in their own countries leads to global warming so improving their quality of life is wrong? How honorable. It does absolutely nothing to propose solutions to the very real problem of global warming (a fact that right wingers choose to overlook till they can use it against immigration), and is yet another means of immigrant scapegoating.

Furthermore, the report completely looks over the fact that the countries which contribute the most immigrants–legal or illegal–to the United States (India, China, Mexico) are developing countries where consumption rates are likely to explode in the future–another fact that right-wingers always point to themselves when told to rein in consumption by the G-8 nations. Again, the United States can take the lead in this matter and do something about its own consumption rates before it starts blaming population growth for the problem. If we rein in consumption patterns, our ecological footprint decreases and hence population growth–from immigrants or otherwise–becomes a less important issue. (I= PAT, Re: Paul Ehrlich).

For so long the scientists sounding an alarm about global warming were labeled as “Chicken Little” by the right-wing. Now right-wingers are using the arguments by their “Chicken Little” to sound alarms about so-called high immigration? How ironic.

I am not kidding. See this comment by rabid nativist Tom Tancredo:

I have no doubt that global warming exists. I just question the cause and what we can do to ameliorate it. But I wonder why the Sierra Club isn’t going crazy about the environmental aspects of massive immigration into the U.S. The fact is, Americans consume more energy than anyone else, so if a person moves here from another country, they automatically become bigger polluters.

Besides the fact that the assumption overgeneralizes the issue, it’s as ludicrous as saying that since greater gender equality encourages women in developing countries to improve their standards of living, thereby consume more and contribute to the ecological footprint, we must discourage gender equality.

The CIS admits that immigrants pollute less than their American counterparts. And for all we know, importing immigrant lifestyles and scientific innovation–especially by highly-skilled educated migrants–might just help to decrease global warming. For example, Indian migrants are more likely to use economical Japanese imported cars with less emissions than gas-guzzling SUVs.

The mainstream media needs to quit giving the CIS credibility by quoting their anti-immigrant based ‘findings’ and excuses for ‘research’ in actual articles unless it is as farce or satire:

Q: How do you make a conservative believe in global warming?
A: Blame it on immigrants!

Just a sidenote: CO2 is not the only greenhouse gas–so is methane and the production of beef and veal, oil and natural gas, and biomass energy all positively affect methane emissions intensity.

Immigrant Scapegoating – Definately Not an Election Winner

George Bush made a 10% gain in Hispanic voters during his re-election bid in 2004; it is more than likely that the gain would reverse itself into a loss for Republicans come this November.

This time around, pledging to step up immigrant crackdowns throughout the year, the Bush Administration is risking a political fallout with Hispanic voters. The lame-duck President has nothing to lose but it doesn’t bode well for the non-teflon Republican Party and John McCain’s bid for Presidency.

Regardless of the fact that immigration enforcers claim to be anti-(illegal) immigration and not immigration per se, ICE actions and political rhetoric is nonetheless perceived as just anti-immigrant. And perfectly legal immigrants are being harmed in this so-called anti-(illegal) immigrant climate. Take a look at the Congress economic stimulus package to disallow tax rebates to undocumented workers; it ended up affecting many legal residents who filed joint tax returns with their spouses without social security numbers. In counties like Prince Williams that are now policing immigration, even legal immigrants who perceive hatred and hostility are moving and taking their businesses elsewhere.

The Latino vote is crucial, especially in swing states like Florida, New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado. Fostering a climate that is heavily perceived as anti-immigrant would undoubtedly turn-off many Hispanic voters, who are the majority of the minority ethnic population and feel targeted due to increased crackdowns and legislation.

If the Bush Administration is merely playing politics and want voters to look past McCain’s reformist attitude to immigration, it is taking an ill-calculated risk. John McCain would most likely win the votes of the rabid anti-immigrant crowd regardless of his flip-flop on immigration issues. But he surely risks losing the gains made with Hispanic voters and other immigrant groups in 2004 if the anti-immigrant hysteria continues with inaction from Congress on immigration reform.

Americans usually poll vehemently against illegal immigration  in surveys but it hardly translate into votes at the polling booth. It ranks as a seventh major concern, far behind issues like the economy, war and healthcare. The immigration issue is clearly not an election winner. But it can become a major spoiler for Republicans come November.

Depoliticize Immigration – Article in NLG Newsletter

Here is a first draft of an article I wrote for the NLG Newsletter today. Feel free to comment and give suggestions on how to make the preaching drivel better.

This year, the May 1 marches for immigration reform were quieter than preceding years probably due to differences over how to resolve the issue of ‘illegal immigration’ and a climate of fear aggravated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids and arrests of undocumented immigrants in their homes, workplaces and even schools. In 2007, the ICE deported more than 280,500 individuals here without proper authorization. Going by the weekly raids this year and the border patrol nabbing of even migrant workers voluntarily leaving the country, the numbers of arrestees and deportees are likely to increase in the coming fiscal year.

The undocumented immigrant has become a bogeyman, a convenient scapegoat for policymakers and working class Americans frustrated with the deteriorating state of the economy and growing unemployment. With the Congressional failure of Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) and individual states left to grapple with the issue of undocumented workers, we are clearly living in an era of immigrant scapegoating with record numbers of new anti-immigration bills in state legislatures across the country. In 2007, 1562 immigration bills were introduced in 50 states and 240 enacted in 46 states, compared to 570 pieces of legislation introduced and 84 enacted in 32 states 2006. Even the debate over birthright citizenship has intensified recently, with several lawmakers calling for a repeal of the Fourteenth Amendment which guarantees citizenship to every child born in the United States of America.

In this war against immigrants, even the children of our huddled masses have not been spared as the bipartisan DREAM Act failed to overcome cloture in the Senate last October, which would have given conditional residency to the children of undocumented immigrants if they have been in this country for at least five years, graduated from high school, possess good moral character, and joined the military or attended a postsecondary institution for two years. Punished for their undocumented status due to the alleged transgressions of their parents, over 1.8 million American-raised children across the country remain in the shadows, stateless and in-limbo, their lives still and immobile, yearning to be free.

On the other side of immigration reform, ICE hopes to arrest and deport all undocumented immigrants by 2012 seems like a pipe dream. As exemplified by the war on drugs and the so-called war on terrorism, ‘get-tough’ policies do not work. It is neither economically feasible nor humane to rip 12 million undocumented immigrants from their homes, families and communities and place them in immigrant detention centers (a euphemism for concentration camps) to await mass deportation; for the most part, these are passionate, hard-working people who have made America their home, pay taxes and keep Social Security solvent.

Crackdowns on illegal immigration that involve raids in our homes, workplaces and schools promote a climate of fear, waste our tax dollars, disrupt our local economies, while extending the arm of the national security state through the rise of a military-industrial-migrant complex. The benefits of electronic surveillance and locking up immigrants in ever-expanding inhumane privatized detention centers are not reaped by working class Americans, but rather the stock portfolios of companies like Corrections Corporation of America, Boeing, Haliburton and other private entities entrusted with the multi-million, multi-billion dollar contracts to build more prisons, jails, fences, and surveillance units.

All the anti-immigrant fervor and hatred of the ‘Other’ comes down to a mere social construct, the social construct of the illegal alien. The concept of ‘illegal alien’ and hence, ‘illegal immigration’ first appears with the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act on May 6 1882. With the act of barring Chinese entry and citizenship, the nation-state created the problem of ‘illegal immigration,’ rooted in the rejection of undesirable, unassimilable Others. In a fascinating article published by the San Francisco Bulletin on April 21, 1882 while Congress was debating Chinese exclusion, a journalist distinguishes between “true and false immigration”—the false immigration referring to the Chinese Other, the unassimilable laborer with a non-pagan ritual, who was an invader and justified exclusion. The otherizing act of the original exclusion continues to reverberate in status quo anti-immigration policies with an expanded list of Others.

Like drug abuse is a medical problem, entering or residing in this country without proper documentation is not a crime but a civil violation, an administrative problem that requires serious depoliticization. The problems in administration are not limited to undocumented migration and visa backlogs but continues to haunt legal permanent residents who apply for citizenship only to find themselves in deportation proceedings due to age-old misdemeanors, lost paperwork, failing to inform USCIS about a change of address or being a quadriplegic and failing to show up for finger printing. Clearly, we need immigration reform, but we also need to depoliticize and treat it as a naturally-occurring phenomenon that started 57,000 years ago when the first human migrant emerged from the cradle of civilization and made her/his way out to Eurasia.

In this era of globalization, more people live and work outside of their countries of origin than ever before and the numbers are likely to increase as the world becomes smaller. The movement of human bodies across borders should be seen and treated as a normal phenomenon—regulated to a reasonable point. Jailing refugee and asylum seekers, conducting raids to arrest and deport non-violent undocumented workers and banning undocumented American students from post-secondary education is an extreme approach to dealing with a more globalized workforce. Furthermore, treating and scapegoating migrants as a homogenous entity serves as political instrument of wanton distraction, a distraction from vital issues like the war on Iraq, health care, the economy and global warming. The immigration issue does not need more politics—it needs more humanity.

North Carolina Plays Ping-Pong with Undocumented Students

Playing ping-pong with the future of our students in North Carolina continues as now the Community College system has clarified that undocumented students in the system already can remain. The policy has supposedly changed 4 times, but the NC Community College system has still barred future enrollment of any undocumented students. The NC university system continues to be open for undocumented students although it is quite unaffordable for most students who would have to pay out-of-state tuition.

Just to clarify something the community leader said in this video as an answer to “So, why don’t undocumented students apply for citizenship?” The answer is simply not that it is a lengthy and expensive process but also because most undocumented students are simply ineligible for citizenship–there is NO LINE to get into if your parents brought you here illegally. The DREAM Act grants students that line.