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Minnesota Monitor: How the anti-immigration movement paints itself green

A strange argument was made to a legislative hearing last week: that reducing immigration is environmentally friendly.FROM MINNESOTA MONITOR


by Dan Haugen

A man named Norm, representing a group called Minnesotans United for Immigration Reduction, offered a novel explanation for the world’s fossil fuel and peak-oil problems at a legislative hearing on Monday.

“We now have about 303 million people in this country, and I don’t think there’s any one ’em that doesn’t use his or her share of oil,” Norm said. “Thirty years ago, roughly 30 years ago, we had 200 million people here. Without immigration we would have about 220 million people, and of that 83 million people extra that we now have here… “

He paused as his audience began funneling out the door.

“I just wanted to make the point that how to use less oil is going to mean, inevitably, changes in our immigration system so that we don’t keep adding 100 million people every 30 years. We did that in the last 30 years. It’s all based upon an illusion … It’s unfortunate we have, for a variety of reasons, it’s buried into our culture, we think we have an unlimited supply of everything, and we just keep, one thing after another, using it up and burning it up until there’s no more left, and then we wonder, what the heck happened? We cannot continue to make the assumption that there’s no end to anything.”

It was about then that Rep. Bill Hilty, DFL-Finlayson, chair of the House Energy Finance and Policy Committee, cut off Norm’s “extended commentary.”

Listen to audio here.

I wish I’d taken better notes about the man’s appearance or asked him about his organization, but at the time I wrote him off as a wing nut and didn’t plan to write anything about his ramblings. That is until — unrelated — an e-mail and link showed up in my inbox yesterday that led to one of those connect-the-dots moments. (Thanks, Gayle). The link went to the website of a Colorado environmental consultant and blogger named Beth Conover and a post she wrote a couple of weeks ago. A former Colorado governor and sitting Democratic legislator there are making the same bizarre immigration-as-environmental- sustainability arguments.

It’s not hard to dismantle their arguments. First of all, problems like peak oil and climate change — they’re global issues. It doesn’t matter whether someone’s carbon footprint is in Guadalajara, Mexico, or Worthington, Minn. We share the same atmosphere, and as Conover quips, worrying about political borders when it comes to global warming is a true case of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Contrary to Norm’s claim there’s not “any one ’em that doesn’t use his or her share of oil,” Conover points out that many immigrants don’t have as big an impact. They live in cities, they ride public transportation, and because their incomes are often lower, they’re more likely to buy less and reuse what they can.

Using immigration as a scapegoat is nothing new (see: crime, education, Social Security). What I find interesting here, though, is how anti-immigration groups, just like so many corporations and other causes, are trying to stick their cause to the “green” movement. It points to the perceived value these days of being associated with a buzz word like “sustainability” and the importance of questioning any idea that claims to be it.

P.S. If you listen to the audio, you’ll notice “Norm” also says he’s with the Minnesota Futurists. I sent an e-mail to the futurists early this morning and their reply says they don’t know of a member named Norm, nor would he be authorized to lobby on the group’s behalf if he were a member.