Documenting Racism in the 'Green' Campaign Against Immigration

Author(s): Political Ecology Group (PEG)
Date Published: July 22, 2006
Source: Political Environments #6, Fall 1998

(Editor's Note: In the debate over immigration and the environment within the Sierra Club, proponents of immigration restriction denied that race was a motivating factor in their proposal. Regardless of any individual motivation, however, the issue of race is a factor in the thinking and practice of several institutions and individuals supporting immigration restriction using population/environmental rationales.

The following is largely excerpted from a document prepared by the Political Ecology Group (PEG), in response to accusations by immigration restriction proponents that PEG was making unfounded claims of racism in its opposition to an environmental argument against immigration.)

The Money: The Pioneer Fund

The Pioneer Fund is described as "a New York organization that finances research seeking proof of the genetic superiority of the white race,"(San Francisco Chronicle, 3/30/94) and also as a "neo-Nazi organization closely integrated with the far Right in American politics."(London Sunday Telegraph, 3/12/89)

The Pioneer Fund was established in 1937 by Wycliffe Draper, a textile millionaire who advocated sending Blacks back to Africa, and crusading eugenics advocate Harry Laughlin, honored for his contributions to Nazi eugenics and "racial hygiene."(Discovery Journal, 7/9/94; Irish Times, 5/23/94) Eugenics is the "pseudo-science embraced by the Nazis that seeks to improve the human race through selective breeding."(Los Angeles Times, 9/29/97) The Pioneer Fund has consistently contributed to the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

The Ideas: Garrett Hardin

A recipient of Pioneer Fund grants, Hardin is a longstanding supporter of eugenics and advocates ending immigration. The Wall Street Journal reported that "Mr. Hardin expressed alarm about 'the next generation of breeders' now reproducing uncontrollably in Third World countries. The problem, according to Mr. Hardin, is not simply that there are too many people in the world, but there are too many of the wrong kind of people... It would be better to encourage the breeding of more intelligent people rather than the less intelligent." Hardin, a father of four, advocates letting hungry people starve to death, says that China's coercive birth control program is not strict enough and declares infanticide "an effective population control."(Wall Street Journal, 10/2/97)

Lobbyists: Sierrans for US Population Stabilization (SUSPS)

Formed to advance Alternative "A," the immigration restriction proposal on the Sierra Club ballot, SUSPS advocated a return to pre-1965 immigration levels - levels determined by an overtly racist provision of the National Origins Act of 1924. Promoted by eugenicists and the KKK, the Act used explicit ethnic quotas guaranteeing that most immigrants were from Northern and Western Europe. This law prevented millions of Jews and Eastern Europeans fleeing Nazi terror from saving their lives by finding refuge in the U.S. (Alan Chase, The Legacy of Malthus, 1974) Finally, in 1965, national origin quotas were replaced with policies favoring refugees, family reunification, and the needs of employers. SUSPS considers returning to pre-1965 immigration levels the only realistic option because it "is feasible, broadly popular, and could be done quickly."

Lobbyists #2: Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIR)

FAIR is the largest anti-immigrant organization in the U.S. and is the dominant voice making the environment-immigration connection. (Los Angeles Times, 9/29/97) Executive Director Dan Stein "appears to embrace Mr. Hardin's long-standing support of eugenics."(Wall Street Journal 10/2/97) Along with Garrett Hardin, FAIR's founding president John Tanton sits on its board and also heads the anti-bilingual group US English. In a 1986 memo, Tanton targeted the environmental movement - and the Sierra Club specifically - as a constituency susceptible to the anti-immigrant message. (San Jose Mercury News, 8/12/97) Tanton also inflamed racial fears and antagonisms: "As whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night? Or will there be an explosion?" According to IRS records, FAIR has received more than a million dollars from the Pioneer Fund since 1982 because, according to the Fund's Director, they're "concerned about who's coming in."(San Francisco Examiner 12/12/94)

Lobbyists #3: Population-Environment Balance (PEB)

In a mass mailing dated January 1998, PEB urged readers to lobby the Sierra Club and provided instructions on how to join the Sierra Club to pack the vote for the anti-immigrant position. Historically, PEB has advocated population control on environmental grounds, but in the last five years, their focus has shifted to an all-out campaign for immigration control. PEB boasts Garrett Hardin as its Honorary Chairman. PEB has also reached out to non-environmental anti-immigrant groups and encouraged them to add the environmental argument to their arsenal. "Until now, my focus has been on cultural and economic impacts," said Barbara Coe, a Huntington Beach anti-immigrant activist who attended a conference sponsored by Population-Environment Balance in Colorado. "This is about to change."(Los Angeles Times, 9/29/97).