The Truth About Immigrants and The Environment
October 29, 2010
By Jorge Madrid, Voces Verdes Board Member If we are going to get serious about fighting climate change and building a low carbon economy in the U.S., we absolutely need to include immigrants. Not just because it's the progressive thing to do, because we need them. Immigrants have a lower carbon footprint than the native-born, according to a new report by the Center for American Progress, and they are helping major cities grow and thrive, while keeping environmental impacts in check. Immigrants are nearly three times more likely to use alternative transit to commute to work than non-immigrants, and more than half of all U.S. immigrants live in high-density cities and suburbs. Immigrant-rich populations, such as Latinos, overwhelmingly vote for green policies and environmentally conscious candidates. Polls have found that no other ethnic group is more likely to support action against climate change, and reject the false argument that Americans must choose between clean energy and a healthy economy. This is HUGE news for both advocates of the environment and clean energy, as well as candidates who are seeking to court the Latino vote. Unfortunately, the reality of immigrants living eco-friendly lifestyles has not stopped groups who seek to isolate and vilify the immigrant community. It is not a new story that immigrants are blamed for nearly all of this country's woes -- and this oftentimes hateful rhetoric becomes especially pronounced during tough economic times. In this case, numerous anti-immigrant hate-based organizations use phony environmental arguments to attack the foreign born. They claim that immigrants are the cause behind the nationâ€™s environmental problems -- everything from increasing our nation's carbon footprint and accelerating climate change, to causing urban sprawl and the destruction of open space, to congesting our roads and neighborhoods with traffic and pollution. These arguments are simply not true, and the new CAP report debunks many of these myths with data and hard facts. The imperative to combat immigrant scapegoating is more important than ever. While these arguments have been around for several decades, they have become increasingly disruptive in the road to achieving both comprehensive immigration reform, and comprehensive clean energy and climate policy. These arguments, based on misinformation, cloud our national policy discussion and distract the county from achieving solutions. They present Americans with a false choice between achieving fair and humane immigration reform and climate legislation that will respect the environment and lead our country to a clean and prosperous energy future. In a press call this week announcing the release of the CAP report, Senior Fellow and Green Jobs expert Van Jones commented: "We can have an American that is green, prosperous, and welcoming of new comers. In so many ways, immigrants give more than they take from the country, and that extends to greening America."