Keep a Watchful Eye Out for Anti-Immigration Activities: Controversy Continues in the Sierra Club

Date Published: July 22, 2006

The New York City Group of the Sierra Club is urging the Club to support a proposal that the federal government create a National Optimum Population Commission (NOPC) composed of cabinet members, business, environmental, and religious organizations, selected PHD candidates focusing their research on optimum population, and other specialists. They would analyze and debate the question: What is our optimum population?

According to the proposal, "After a 3-to 5- year information-gathering period, the commission would summarize the input and then design a package of non-coercive educational, legislative, and public policy initiatives to place the USA on the path, during a long transitional time of 100-125 years, to achieving an optimum, sustainable population."

The Club's Angeles Chapter Population Committee opposes the proposal. According to its resolution:

"Determining an 'optimal population' obfuscates the complexities of the population issue and environmental issues by misplacing responsibilities and misleading people by indicating easy solutions. Defining an 'optimal population' leads North Americans away from confronting their responsibilities as high consumers contributing to environmental problems. If a large part of the problem is excessive and destructive consumption habits, a large part of the solution must be to reduce the consumption habits. Those looking for a target number for an 'optimal population' offer as a solution to environmental devastation only that we work to achieve that number...

What really is at risk is the Club contributing to perpetuating and exacerbating injustice. The 'white' population of the U.S. is basically stabilized...The discrimination and disenfranchisement of women, poor people, people of color, and immigrants, leaves them the least empowered to cause environmental destruction through individual habits and economic status and with the least say in destruction caused by corporate business practices, militarism, and government action.

Efforts to form a 'National Optimum Population Commission' or National Population Policy can not be kept separate from the immigration issue. Participation in the NOPC or National Population Policy will join us with the anti-immigration movement and the organizations which seek to influence Sierra Club immigration policy."

Beginning in February 1998 the Club will also hold a members' referendum on whether or not the Club should have a policy on immigration. Currently, it takes a neutral position (see Poplitical Environments #3) which anti-immigration activists are trying to overturn. However, they are facing stiff opposition from environmental justice advocates in the Club.

Moving to the Right

Carrying Capacity Network (CCN), Population-Environment Balance (PEB) and Negative Population Growth are continuing their almost exclusive focus on anti-immigration work -- a strange variant indeed of 'environmentalism'. Seeds of CCN's and PEB's rightward drift can be found by looking at the signatories of their 1995 letter calling for a five-year immigration moratorium, with an all-inclusive ceiling of 100,000 people a year. One of the signatories is the Independence Institute in Golden, Colorado, listed in The Right Guide; they support free market environmentalism, oppose gun control, and Jeff Coors of the Adolph Coors Co. is on their board of trustees. Another is the conservative Voice of Citizens Together in California, which recently rallied in support of the fence to be built along the Mexico-California border. More research needs to be done on the extent to which population/anti-immigration groups are allied -- practically and ideologically -- with right-wing anti-environmental forces.

Alliance for Stabilizing America's Population, a project of Population-Environment Balance, hosted a conference in July in Colorado on the theme of stabilizing U.S.population by the year 2020. According to its statement of principles, to achieve this goal "Congress should reduce the number of immigrants, refugees, and asylees admitted legally each year (with illegal entry enforced near zero). The mathematics of achieving population stabilization by 2020 will require reducing net immigration to near zero (approximately 200,000 legal admissions to match annual emigration from the U.S.), as well as reducing our total fertility rate substantially."

Meanwhile CCN is lobbying against restoring immigrant welfare benefits. According to an action alert, members should oppose restoration of limited welfare benefits to elderly and disabled immigrants unless it is part of legislation mandating a five-year immigration moratorium, with a fixed ceiling of 100,000 per year... This is environmentalism?

Immigration Impact is a anti-immigration newsletter published by the Willard Press in Alexandria, Virginia, which describes its mission as "documenting the effects of immigration on African Americans." Although it bills itself as an independent publication, receiving no funding from government, political or foundation sources, it is receiving help from six organizations -- CCN, PEB, Center for Immigration Studies, FAIR, American National Council for Immigration Reform, and The Social Contract -- to distribute the newsletter to "black newspapers, magazines, and radio and television stations, service organizations, black studies collections and historically black colleges and universities." (Immigration Impact, January 1997)

Funding the Greening of Hate

Following is a partial listing of foundations that fund anti-immigrant organizations, based on preliminary research at the Foundation Center in New York. We will be updating this information shortly. Some of the foundations also fund various liberal causes, while others are more explicitly right-wing. The latter are noted.


Organization Abbreviations:

AICF--American Immigration Control Foundation
CAPI--Californians Against Population Increase
CCN--Carrying Capacity Network
CIS--Center for Immigration Studies
CPS--Californians for Population Stabilization
FAIR--Federation for American Immigration Reform
NPG--Negative Population Growth
PEB--Population-Environment Balance


The Carthage Foundation is one of three Pittsburgh-based foundations controlled by multi-millionaire Richard Mellon Scaife. The other two are the Sarah Mellon Scaife and Allegheny Foundations. The three foundations give roughly $400,000 a week, predominantly to radical right organizations. The Scaife Family Foundation, also on the right, is located at the same address.1

CIS $50,000 1995

FAIR 125,000 1995
(75,000 1996)


CIS $15,000 1993
30,000 1992

CPS 10,000 1993
5,000 1992

PEB 100 1992


CCN $10,000 1993

CPS 25,000 1994
25,000 1993

FAIR 50,000 1994
85,000 1993
NPG 20,000 1994
15,000 1993

PEB 20,000 1994
30,000 1993


This foundation, based in New York, funds a number of right-wing institutes.

FAIR $25,000 1995
20,000 1994
15,000 1993


CCN $10,000 1993

NPG 10,000 1993


This foundation, based in Dallas, Texas, has also funded controversial quinacrine sterilization research through the Center for Research on Population and Security in North Carolina. Quinacrine has not been approved as a female sterilization method by any major drug regulatory agency and human clinical trials are opposed by most international family planning agencies. Two promoters of quinacrine, Sally G. Epstein and Donald Collins, are on the Board of Directors of FAIR. Collins is also an officer of the Scaife Family Foundation.

FAIR $50,000 1994
40,000 1993


The conservative Laurel Foundation, located in Pittsburgh, is a major player in promoting the anti-immigrant agenda within the environmental movement. Its donor is Cordelia Scaife May. Laurel sponsored the U.S. publication of Frenchman Jean Raspail's racist fantasy The Camp of Saints in which hordes of poor, uncivilized refugees from India threaten to overrun southern France.2

CCN $5,000 1993

CPS 5,000 1995
35,000 1994
25,000 1993

NPG 25,000 1992

PEB 5,000 1993
8,500 1992


CIS $15,000 1994

FAIR 25,000 1993


FAIR $40,000 1993


The Pioneer Fund, based in New York City, is the main private sponsor of eugenics research in the United States. It has funded the work of triage theorist Garrett Hardin, who is a major link between population and environment groups and the anti-immigration movement.

AICF $10,000 1993

FAIR 100,500 1994
108,500 1993
150,000 1992


CIS $26,500 1995
26,500 1994

FAIR 50,000 1994
100,000 1993


A little-known but apparently important funder of the anti-immigration movement, located in Charlotte, North Carolina.

CCN $10,000 1994

FAIR 61,000 1994

PEB 26,000 1994
60,000 1993


CAPI $2,000 1992

CCN 15,000 1993
37,500 1996

CIS 15,000 1993
20,000 1996

CPS 2,000 1993
1,000 1992
20,000 1996

FAIR 25,000 1993
40,000 1996

NPG 5,000 1993
1,000 1992
15,000 1996

PEB 50,000 1994
10,000 1993
1,000 1992

In 1994 Weeden also gave money to Population Communications International to create and distribute an information packet on immigration reform for a media campaign in southern California. Weeden also funded the recent population issue of E Magazine, which takes a largely one-dimensional, neo-Malthusian view of population. Weeden supports CCN's Diversity Coalition for an Immigration Moratorium. (Recent Weeden figures from on-line 1996 Annual Report.)

It is important to note that there are other population and environment organizations which have anti-immigrant activities as part of their agenda, and that sometimes within these organizations there are differences of opinion. Zero Population Growth (ZPG) is an example of this, with both extreme and moderate voices on immigration.

In some cases, foundation funding appears to be only a small part of an organization's budget. For example, according to 990 tax returns from the IRS, CCN received $648,141 in gifts, grants and contributions and $15,111 in membership fees in 1994; NPG $265,333 and $464,477 respectively, AICF $2,526,424 in gifts, grants and contributions, and FAIR $2,700,909 in gifts, grants and contributions. There is clearly big money behind the anti-immigration movement, but it is difficult to document where it is coming from.

Prepared by the Population and Development Program of Hampshire College. Special thanks to Nikki Douglas, Wendy Gosse, and Anna Paskal.

1. Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania, Money, Power and the Radical Right in Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, PA., 1996, p.47.

2. See Ruth Conniff, "The War on Aliens: The Right Call the Shots," Progressive, October 1993.