How much do environmentalists want power as opposed to saving the planet? Enough that they submerged their differences with proponents of immigration reform and have come out in support of the legislation.
It was a different story when George Bush was president. The 2007 effort to reform immigration saw the Greens on the sidelines, terrified that their opposition to the bill would be seen as racist.
And why did they oppose the bill? Apparently, the prospect of all those new immigrants becoming legal would mean a big increase in greenhouse gas emissions as the formerly impoverished illegals would want all the goodies associated with the American dream.
But that was them, this is now. Greens have convinced themselves that a lot of these new voters are going to be Green at heart and support their efforts to make things all clean and “sustainable.” And, of course, the fact that it’s a Democratic president asking for their support doesn’t hurt.
Fast forward to 2013 and the Sierra Club, BlueGreen Alliance and Greenpeace are among those out publicly in support of the kinds of comprehensive immigration reform measures pursued by President Barack Obama and the Senate’s Gang of Eight.
Atop their list of reasons why: the prospect of 11 million new green-minded voters.
Just like Republicans who see political gain in courting a new generation of Latino voters, greens count Hispanics, Asians and other potential new Americans as friendly to their causes, even more so in some instances than whites.
“The Sierra Club has thrived because of the ability for our members to engage with the full tools of democracy,” Michael Brune, the group’s executive director, told POLITICO.
“Right now, there are 11 million people who don’t have the tools, who can’t act without fear. They can’t vote. They can’t engage in the public process. They can’t advocate for clean energy without the threat of deportation,” Brune added. “Nobody should live under those circumstances.”
And if Congress paves the way for undocumented workers to become new citizens with full voting rights, they reason that it’d also be good news for their cause in electing lawmakers who will speak up for the EPA, clean energy and aggressive climate change policies.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer welcomed the greens’ entry to the debate, noting that illegal immigrants often live and work in places that are more vulnerable than the general population to higher levels of air, water and soil pollution. But they can’t speak up now for fear of deportation.
“Where somebody is going to put the most polluting industry in a very poor neighborhood, if people are afraid to come forward because they’re not even documented, their voice isn’t heard,” the California Democrat said in an interview.
It’s called “environmental racism” and is due far more to the fact that the oldest parts of a city are where industrial plants are located — the same place as poorer neighborhoods, and not necessarily because greedy capitalists cynically placed their plants where no one would complain about the pollution.
But is it true that many of these newly legal immigrants will embrace job killing policies pushed by the Greens? Not unless most of them have lost their minds — or eschew their own self-interest. Hispanics are no more eager to reduce their economic opportunities than any other group. They may be in favor of bigger government, but not at the expense of their economic security.
It probably doesn’t matter because when it comes down to it, they opposed immigration reform when a Republican president was pushing it, and now support it because a Democratic president has proposed it. No matter how nobly they try to dress up their support, it has far more to do with partisan politics than anything else.