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Greenwash: Nativists, Environmentalism and the Hypocrisy of Hate

By Mark Potok - Southern Poverty Law Center, July 2010

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

A quarter of a century ago, John Tanton, a white nationalist who would go on to almost single-handedly construct the contemporary, hard-line anti-immigration movement, wrote about his secret desire to bring the Sierra Club, the nation's largest environmental organization, into the nativist fold. He spelled out his motive clearly: Using an organization perceived by the public as part of the liberal left would insulate nativists from charges of racism — charges that, given the explicitly pro-"European-American" advocacy of Tanton and many of his allies over the years, would likely otherwise stick.

In the ensuing decades, nativist forces followed Tanton's script, making several attempts to win over the Sierra Club and its hundreds of thousands of members. That effort culminated in 2004, when nativists mounted a serious effort to take over the Sierra Club's board of directors, an attempt that was beaten back only after a strenuous campaign by Sierra Club members and groups including the Southern Poverty Law Center. The attempt was a classic case of "greenwashing" — a cynical effort by nativist activists to seduce environmentalists to join their cause for purely strategic reasons.

Now, the greenwashers are back. In the last few years, right-wing groups have paid to run expensive advertisements in liberal publications that explicitly call on environmentalists and other "progressives" to join their anti-immigration cause. They've created an organization called Progressives for Immigration Reform that purports to represent liberals who believe immigration must be radically curtailed in order to preserve the American environment. They've constructed websites accusing immigrants of being responsible for urban sprawl, traffic congestion, overconsumption and a host of other environmental evils. Time and again, they have suggested that immigration is the most important issue for conservationists.

The hypocrisy of these come-ons can be astounding. The group headed by Roy Beck, one of the key activists leading the efforts, has given close to half a million dollars to a far-right news service that has described global warming as a hoax. Tanton's wife, who works hand in glove with her husband, runs an anti-immigration political action committee (PAC) that funds candidates with abysmal environmental voting records. The congressional allies of John Tanton, Beck and the other greenwashers are organized into an anti-immigration caucus whose members have even worse environmental voting records than the beneficiaries of Mary Lou Tanton's PAC. John Tanton's U.S. Inc., a foundation set up to fund nativist groups, spent about $150,000 on a highly conservative fundraising agency whose client list includes several major anti-environmental organizations. 

This new wave of greenwashing attempts, in particular the formation of Progressives for Immigration Reform as a purported group of “liberals,” is only the latest attempt by nativist forces to appear as something they are not. The white-dominated Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the most important of the groups founded by Tanton, has been behind the creation of three other front groups that supposedly represented African Americans (Choose Black America), Latino Americans (You Don’t Speak for Me!) and labor (Coalition for the Future American Worker). In fact, FAIR had its own white spokesman double as a press representative for the first two organizations. Another group unrelated to FAIR, Vietnamese for Fair Immigration, turned out to be led by a white man who used a fake Vietnamese surname and whose only connection to that country was that he liked the food.

The arguments being made by the nativists today — in a nutshell, that immigration drives population increase and that a growing population is the main driver of environmental degradation — have in the last 15 years been rejected by the mainstream of the environmental movement as far too simplistic. The allegation that immigrants are responsible for urban sprawl, for example, ignores the fact that most immigrants live in dense, urban neighborhoods and do not contribute significantly to suburban or exurban sprawl. In a similar way, most conservationists have come to believe that many of the world's most intractable environmental problems, including global warming, can only be solved by dealing with them on a worldwide, not a nation-by-nation, basis.

The greenwashers are wolves in sheep's clothing, right-wing nativists who are doing their best to seduce the mainstream environmental movement in a bid for legitimacy and more followers. John Tanton, the man who originally devised the strategy, is in fact far more concerned with the impact of Latino and other non-white immigration on a "European-American" culture than on conservation. Most of the greenwashers are men and women of the far right, hardly "progressives."

Environmentalists need to be aware of so-called "progressives for immigration reform" and their true motives. These individuals and organizations do not see protecting the environment as their primary goal — on the contrary, the nativists are first and foremost about radically restricting immigration. Environmentalists should not fall for their rhetoric.

Nativists and Environmentalists: A Timeline

Nativists in America have been working to enlist environmentalists as allies since the late 1960s. This is partly due to the fact that many leaders of the contemporary anti-immigration movement first came to immigration issues from the left, typically as a result of their interest in environmentalism and, more precisely, the effect of swelling population on the environment. It is also a function of the fact that leading nativists, many of whom are bigots, have sought to shield themselves from charges of racism by finding allies on the left who are also immigration restrictionists — "greenwashing," as the practice is sometimes known. A good example is John Tanton, who largely founded the modern nativist movement. Starting out as a Sierra Club activist in the 1960s, Tanton increasingly grew concerned about the growth of the population of the United States and became head of the Sierra Club's Population Committee in the early 1970s. Over time, Tanton came to see immigration and burgeoning population as the root cause of most environmental degradation — at the same time that he began to characterize Latino and other non-white immigrants as having a degenerative effect on American culture and society. What follows is a timeline that summarizes the efforts of Tanton, his allies and others to convert "progressive" environmentalists to their cause despite the white nationalism that is at the core of the worldview of many of them. In order to save space, individuals' and organizations' full names are used only on first reference; full individual names and brief biographies, along with group acronyms, are listed in Appendix A.

The environmentalist Sierra Club (SC) publishes The Population Bomb by Paul Ehrlich, who was encouraged to undertake the project by David Brower, a longtime SC executive director. The book, defining population as an environmental issue and suggesting coercion be used in underdeveloped countries to depress fertility, surpasses Rachel Carson's landmark 1962 work Silent Spring to become the best-selling ecology book of the 1960s. Also published in 1968 is ecologist Garrett Hardin's famous Malthusian essay, "The Tragedy of the Commons." Hardin is a believer in eugenics (the "science" of selective breeding aimed at producing better humans) whose research is backed by the racist grant-maker Pioneer Fund (PF). The essay concludes, "Freedom to breed will bring ruin to all."

April 22, 1970
The first Earth Day, organized by Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson, is celebrated. "Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make," Erhlich says on the occasion. "The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next 10 years."

June 1970
Michigan environmentalist John Tanton attends the First National Congress on Optimum Population and the Environment in Chicago, where he meets population-control activists including Ehrlich and Hardin. 

Tanton becomes chairman of the SC's National Population Committee, where he will serve until 1975. Also in the early 1970s, Tanton is active in his hometown Petoskey, Mich., chapter of the SC and other environmental groups.

Tanton joins Zero Population Growth (ZPG). In 1975, he will become ZPG president, a position he holds until 1977. The movement will falter in the late 1970s as population concerns ease because U.S. fertility rates are falling sharply.

Population-Environment Balance (PEB), initially named The Environmental Fund, is founded to stabilize U.S. population in order to protect the environment. PEB pushes for a moratorium on immigration.

Tanton quits ZPG after the group moves away from treating immigration as a major cause of population growth.

May 5-6, 1978
The SC urges the federal government to examine the impact of immigration policies on population trends and environmental resources. It argues that each region of the world must achieve a balance between population and resources.

Tanton founds the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) with the help of other former ZPG members angered by ZPG's lack of interest in immigration restriction.

SC officials testify to the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Reform that it is "obvious that the numbers of immigrants the United States accepts affects our population size" and adds that it is an "important question how many immigrants the United States wants to accept."

Tanton holds the first of a series of private, biannual policy retreats, calling them WITANS meetings after the Witenagemot councils convened by 15th-century English kings to discuss affairs of state. Participants include leaders from FAIR and other groups created by or tied to Tanton. Tanton chooses the sessions' topics, supplies background reading material, and writes a memo for the discussions. 

Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) is founded by former members of the California chapter of ZPG. Unlike ZPG, CAPS blames high immigration levels for ravaging California's environment. On its board are Otis Graham, a close Tanton friend, and UCLA astronomy professor Ben Zuckerman. An emeritus board member is David Brower, the SC's first executive director. In later years, CAPS will accept funding from the PF, which supports studies linking race and intelligence.

Oct. 10, 1986
Tanton distributes a set of private documents, later known as the "WITAN memos," to colleagues at FAIR and elsewhere (the memos will be leaked two years later). In them, among other things, he suggests a campaign to convince the SC and other environmental groups to see immigration as a threat. "The Sierra Club may not want to touch the immigration issue," he writes, "but the immigration issue is going to touch the Sierra Club! (To mention just one group.)"

March 30, 1988
Tanton writes Gregory Curtis of the far-right Cordelia Scaife May Foundation regarding immigrants' purported lack of environmental values. "What will happen when [the white population] goes into minority status, and the groups that comprise the new coalition majorities don't share the same [environmental] values?" Tanton wonders. "Will all the gains be lost in the twenty-first century, when there is no longer a majority to defend them in the legislature?"

September 1988
Tanton's 1986 WITAN memos are leaked to The Arizona Republic in the midst of a battle in Arizona over a law that would mandate that all government documents be written in English. At the time, Tanton is head of U.S. English (USE), which is backing the proposal. The memos warn of a coming "Latin onslaught" and fret that high Latino birth rates will lead "the present majority to hand over its political power to a group that is simply more fertile." Tanton also asks if Latinos will "bring with them the tradition of the mordida [bribe], the lack of involvement in public affairs." Arnold Schwarzenegger and Walter Cronkite both quit the USE board over the memos' racially inflammatory language, as does executive director Linda Chavez, a conservative commentator. Tanton resigns from USE.

Spring 1989
The SC issues its strongest immigration-restriction policy statement to date, saying, "Immigration to the United States should be no greater than that which will permit achievement of population stabilization in the United States." It adds: "Sierra Club statements on immigration will always make the connection between immigration, population increase in the U.S., and the environmental consequences thereof." But the SC says it is interested only in the numbers of immigrants, not who they are.

January 1992 
CAPS, FAIR and PEB join together to form a new coalition, the California Coalition to Stabilize Population (CCSP).

March 1993
The SC's Population Committee proposes a policy to the club's board that states, in part, that "net immigration to the United States and Canada (immigration minus emigration) should be reduced so that their levels are consistent with the U.S. and Canadian population policies." But the SC's Ethnic and Cultural Diversity Task Force denounces the proposal, saying: "Many Club members and leaders believe that the policy is ill-conceived, insensitive and racist and will greatly damage the Club's ability to become a more diverse and inclusive organization." 

The Izaak Walton League of America (IWLA), a conservation organization founded by sportsmen, issues a statement saying "international migration must be addressed as part of a comprehensive strategy to manage U.S. population size."

Feb. 17, 1994
During the debate over California's harshly anti-immigrant Proposition 187, Tanton writes to FAIR Executive Director Dan Stein and the FAIR board to complain that the SC is moving away from the anti-immigration cause. "No population group (save Population/Environment Balance and NPG [Negative Population Growth]) will say that immigration is a U.S. population problem; nor will any of the environmental groups," he frets. "We're on our own."

March 1994
The National Audubon Society (NAS) board debates a draft policy calling for no net increase in immigration, one of many considered in a year-long debate. Ultimately, the NAS will describe immigration as driving population growth that the group says is responsible for sprawl, traffic and overconsumption of scarce goods.

October 1994
The SC comes out officially against California's Prop 187, which would deny children of undocumented workers the ability to attend school, among other things. SC Executive Director Carl Pope calls the ballot measure "wrong," "stupid" and "counterproductive," and adds, "The last thing we need is more sick Californians, more children without inoculations, more patients in crisis in our emergency rooms." For its part, FAIR supports the measure. A senior FAIR official, western regional representative Rick Oltman, chairs the Yes on 187 Campaign.

December 1994
How Many Americans: Population, Immigration and the Environment is co-published by Sierra Club Books and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), a nativist think tank conceived of by Tanton and initially a part of FAIR. The book, which advocates aggressive deportation and other measures meant to prevent undocumented immigration, is apparently the final immigration publication issued by the SC. It is by Leon Bouvier, who works with CIS and NumbersUSA (NUSA), another Tanton-connected group, and Lindsey Grant, who later becomes a supporter of Sierrans for U.S. Population Stabilization (SUSPS). (Some 15 years later, Grant will be on the masthead of Tanton's The Social Contract, a journal that has published racially charged articles on such topics as "Europhobia.")

Feb. 22, 1996
The Wilderness Society (WS) approves a policy statement calling for slower population growth in the U.S. "One-half to two-thirds of U.S. population growth results from domestic births and longer life spans," WS says. "One-third to one-half is due to immigration. To bring population levels to ecologically sustainable levels, both birth rates and immigration rates need to be reduced."

Feb. 24, 1996 
The SC board abandons its restrictionist 1989 policy, opting to "take no position on immigration levels or on policies governing immigration into the United States," and forbidding anyone speaking in the club's name to call for immigration reduction as a way to reach U.S. population stabilization. The board refuses a straight up-or-down vote on the resolution, instead adding to that year's internal SC ballot a proposal affirming the statement and calling for action against the "root causes of global population problems." That decision spawns a countermovement by SC members who propose a resolution that calls for a "reduction in net immigration."

Late February 1996
Sierrans for U.S. Population Stabilization (later renamed by its SUSPS acronym alone) is formed by Zuckerman, the CAPS board member and UCLA astronomy professor, and Alan Kuper, a FAIR board of advisors member and physics professor at Case Western Reserve, in order to lobby the SC to oppose immigration.

Early 1997
Carrying Capacity Network (CCN) and the especially hard-line anti-immigration group Americans for Immigration Control (AIC) sponsor two conferences that bring together environmentalists and anti-immigration activists. After one, Eric Draper, a senior vice president at NAS, says he "was uncomfortable" with the tone of a FAIR speaker and tells a reporter that "I think the attempt to marry the environment with immigration is a very hard sell and I don't think most people will buy it."

Feb. 2, 1997
Tanton offers to financially support SUSPS's efforts to change the SC's stance to an anti-immigration position, writing to SUSPS' Kuper: "I should be able to provide you with several thousand dollars of help for the campaign. Think expansively. How much could you put to good use?"

April 22, 1997
ZPG board member and Tanton ally Joyce Tarnow writes to fellow board members to say ZPG's position on legal immigration levels is "terribly inadequate" and to urge a dialogue with anti-immigration organizations. Later in the year, after 27 years in leadership positions with the group, Tarnow resigns, citing ZPG's "unwillingness to take a rational position on legal immigration reform."

August 1997
Representatives of 40 smaller environmental organizations — groups like LA Earth First! and Friends of the Sea Otter — reportedly gather in Estes Park, Colo., along with openly bigoted groups like the California Coalition for Immigration Reform (CCIR) and Voice of Citizens Together (both of which are later listed as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center, or SPLC). Together, the groups form the Alliance for Stabilizing America's Population, or ASAP! The event, organized by PEB, features speeches by former Sen. Gaylord Nelson, University of Colorado emeritus physics professor Albert Bartlett, and syndicated columnist Georgie Anne Geyer, all close Tanton friends. ASAP! calls for a five-year ceiling on immigration at 100,000 a year and alleges, contrary to well-settled law, that the 14th Amendment does not guarantee citizenship to children born to undocumented workers.

October 1997
The Detroit Free Press reports that Tanton and SC board member Dave Foreman, co-founder of EarthFirst!, are introducing a proposed SC anti-immigration policy for a direct vote by the entire membership. Anne Ehrlich, whose husband Paul wrote The Population Bomb, officially sponsors the measure. In the next year, advocates will gather enough signatures to get it on the SC's internal ballot.

Dec. 3, 1997
The SC's Pope tells the Lewiston [Idaho] Morning Tribune that the Ehrlich proposal "is not America at its best. It's America at its worst. And for the Sierra Club to be dragged into this kind of cesspool is very unfortunate."

NUSA releases a video, "Immigration by the Numbers: An Environmental Choice," that is narrated by Monique Miller of Wild Earth (a group that later disappears). In the film, Miller blames sprawl on immigrants.

February 1998
The SC's 550,000 members receive ballots asking them if they support "Alternative A," requiring the SC to advocate ending population growth, in part by restricting immigration, or "Alternative B," which reaffirms the SC's 1996 policy of neutrality on immigration. Alternative A, which also calls for no more than 200,000 immigrants to be admitted annually, is supported by Kuper, Foreman, Nelson, Paul Erhlich, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society leader Paul Watson, Rainforest Action leader Randy Hayes and Worldwatch Institute leader Lester Brown.

April 25, 1998
After a heated campaign featuring charges of "the greening of hate," the SC announces its members have voted 60%-40% against changing the club's neutral stance on immigration (although just 13% of SC members voted), a position also supported by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the NAS and Friends of the Earth. Still, nearly 30,000 people vote for the anti-immigration position. SC Executive Director Pope says "overpopulation is, without question, a fundamental cause of the world's ills," but that a vote in favor of Alternative A would mean that the SC "would be perceived as assisting people whose motivations are racist."

Oct. 28, 1998
Tanton writes in a file memo that he discussed the SC vote with Alan Weeden, president of the Weeden Foundation and a long-time funder of FAIR, where Weeden is a board member. Tanton says Weeden's foundation put $90,000 into mailings about the SC vote but that Weeden, while disappointed in the outcome, still "feels it helped move the issue forward." Tanton also reports "low-key talks that are now going on in the Club, perhaps leading to another vote."

Late April 1999
SUSPS changes tactics and fields its first candidates for the SC board of directors, Kuper and Watson, in elections to be held in April 2000.

May 1999
Brower, the former SC executive director, fails in an attempt to replace Chuck McGrady as SC president. Brower wanted the SC to oppose immigration.

Dec. 23, 1999
In a letter to Tanton employee Roy Beck, who heads NUSA, Tanton says the SC board must be convinced that "the grassroots out there agree with the proposed stance on immigration [backed by Tanton and Beck]. What we need to do is apply pressure to convince them, not try to talk them into taking some action that they feel — rightly or wrongly — would bring down the wrath of the membership on them."

Kuper founds Comprehensive U.S. Sustainable Population, which distributes a scorecard of legislative voting records. Kuper combines anti-immigration grades and environmental grades assigned by other organizations to create a composite "environmental grade."

Jan. 1, 2000
The Journal of Policy History publishes "The Environmental Movement's Retreat from Advocating U.S. Population Stabilization," by Beck and Leon Kolankiewicz of CCN.

February 2000
PEB sends an alert to its members announcing that Kuper, "long time Sierra Club member and population stabilization advocate," will run for the SC board in April. Highlighting Kuper's role in founding SUSPS, PEB's alert urges its readers, "If you're a Sierra Club member, be sure to vote!"

Late April 2000
SUSPS-backed SC board candidates Kuper and Watson are defeated. In protest, Brower resigns from the board, saying, "Overpopulation is perhaps the biggest problem facing us, and immigration is part of that problem."

March 2001
CIS publishes "Forsaking Fundamentals: The Environmental Establishment Abandons U.S. Population Stabilization," an article by Beck and Kolankiewicz, who writes regularly for CIS.

April 2001
Changing tactics again, SUSPS gets a statement on the annual SC ballot that blames sprawl on population growth, which for SUSPS is mostly driven by immigration. At the same time, Zuckerman, backed by SUSPS, runs for the board. Both Zuckerman and the ballot proposal are defeated.

August 2001
SUSPS Chairman Bill Elder testifies to the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims, blaming an "immigration boom" for damaging the environment. Also testifying in the same vein are Frank Morris, a FAIR board member and former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and David Pimentel, a Cornell professor of entomology who is also on the board of CCN.

April 2002
After dropping his earlier ballot statement opposing immigration, Zuckerman finally wins election to the SC board on a platform of making the SC more visible on college campuses and finding more money for conservation.

April 2003
SUSPS-endorsed candidates Watson and Doug LaFollette, Wisconsin's secretary of state, are elected to the SC board, where they form the beginning of an anti-immigration voting bloc with Zuckerman.

Fall 2003
SUSPS announces a major push to win an SC board majority opposed to immigration. The group endorses Robert van de Hoek, three-time Colorado governor Richard Lamm (who joined the SC earlier in the year), Kim McCoy, Morris and Pimentel. Lamm and Morris both serve on the board of FAIR, while Pimentel is on the CCN board. Pimentel is interviewed by Tanton's The Social Contract.

September 2003
Nativist groups start alerting backers about the upcoming SC elections. The Social Contract urges supporters to join the SC in time vote for those concerned with "endless U.S. population growth." The National Immigration Alert List urges followers to vote for directors "who are concerned about the environmental consequences of our immigration-driven U.S. population growth."

Oct. 21, 2003
Citing notices in the nativist press, the SPLC's Mark Potok writes to SC President Larry Fahn to warn of a "hostile takeover attempt" by anti-immigration forces.

November 2003
Watson openly boasts about an attempt to take over the club at the SC's annual meeting in San Francisco. Earlier, he publicly said that the "heartening thing" was that only 8% of SC members had voted in the prior election, meaning that a small number of new members could sway the entire group's agenda. 

Late 2003
Severing their longstanding ties with Tanton, Paul and Anne Ehrlich quit the FAIR board. Their ZPG, having already become a relative moderate on the nativist scene, renames itself the Population Connection and embraces the idea that ending poverty — not deporting immigrants — is the key to reducing population.

January 2004
Zuckerman sends fellow SC board members an article from the virulently anti-immigrant website that claims Latinos are spreading disease and crime in the U.S., and that "Hispandering politicians" are allowing this to happen. During the same month, Barbara Coe encourages members of her CCIR, listed by the SPLC as a hate group, to join the SC. (In 1998, Coe made a similar effort, later claiming that 6,500 of her members joined the SC and voted for "Alternative A," the proposed nativist policy, even though she then told a reporter she was no "tree-hugger.")

Jan. 8, 2004
SC member and virulent nativist Brenda Walker, a contributor to Tanton's The Social Contract, asks readers to "join the Sierra Club NOW and have your vote influence this debate." She adds, "The prize is enormous." 

Jan. 14, 2004
Groundswell Sierra, a group formed within the SC to oppose the nativist slate, debuts its website and announces plans to resist the attempted SC board takeover. That same day, SPLC co-founder Morris Dees announces he will run for the SC board — not to win, but to use the ballot statement afforded to every candidate to urge SC members to vote against the nativist slate.

Jan. 15, 2004
Ten former SC presidents write an open letter warning of an "organized effort" by nativists. Three other past presidents sign the letter later, meaning that all living former SC presidents are on record against the takeover attempt.

Feb. 9, 2004
SC board candidates Lamm, Morris and Pimentel sue the Sierra Club, demanding that "fake candidates" who aren't really seeking election be forced out. One of their targets is Dees.

Feb. 11, 2004
After a review of new SC membership applications, an SC spokeswoman says about 20 racist groups and websites have urged followers to join the SC in order to vote for the nativists. They include, the neo-Nazi website, and the National Coalition of White Writers.

Feb. 18, 2004
Lamm, Morris and Pimentel unexpectedly drop their lawsuit over "fake candidates."

March 28, 2004
In an interview showing his immigration concerns are not limited to the environment, Lamm tells The Denver Post: "What we're saying is, culture matters. I think one of the most important questions facing Americans is, how do they preserve their culture with this onslaught of new people and new cultures diluting what we are and who we are?"

April 21, 2004
Concluding a long campaign, SC officials announce that the SUSPS-supported SC board candidates have all been defeated by about 10-to-1 margins. 

April 26, 2005
SC members reject another proposed policy change to their group's stance on immigration, with votes running 5-to-1 in opposition. 

April 25, 2006
Wayne Lutton — a member of several white nationalist hate groups, a long-time Tanton employee and confidante, and editor of The Social Contract — is cited in a newspaper article claiming to be a "right-wing green."

Spring 2006
A handful of environmentalists gather in Western Oregon to discuss "the decade-long retreat of U.S. environmental organizations from addressing domestic population growth as a key issue in both domestic and global sustainability." The meeting eventually results in the formation of Apply The Brakes (ATB), a group that calls for immigration restrictions. Among the founders of the group is Bill Elder of SUSPS.

The Sprawl City website goes up, focusing on "how uncontrolled immigration levels threaten America's environmental stability." In particular, immigrants are blamed for creating sprawl. Registered to NUSA, the site says it relies on research by NUSA leader Beck and Kolankiewicz.

The ATB website is inaugurated. Don Weeden, brother of Alan Weeden and another principal of the family foundation that bankrolls both major nativist groups and environmental organizations, tells a CIS panel that the ATB will take on the population consequences of immigration to the U.S. environment. The ATB website is run by Elder. Another ATB member is Colorado State University philosophy professor Philip Cafaro.

June 2008
Full-page ads appear in The New York Times, The Nation, Harper's Magazine and other publications seen as liberal, signed by a new group calling itself America's Leadership Team for Long Range Population-Immigration-Resource Planning (ALT). The group is a coalition of five existing organizations — CAPS, NUSA, FAIR, TSC and AICF (the last three are listed as hate groups by the SPLC, and all five have received funding from Tanton). "We're the nation's leading experts on population and immigration trends and growth," boasts one of the ads. Pitched to environmentalists, the ads claim that an immigration-fueled population boom will dramatically worsen traffic congestion and destroy pristine land. One shows a highway clogged with vehicles above the caption, "One of America's Most Popular Pastimes." The other depicts a bulldozer clearing forest above the words, "One of America's Best Selling Vehicles." They are designed by Davis & Co., which FAIR pays $983,802 in 2008 and $348,442 in 2007, according to its tax returns.

June 2008
According to the pro-immigrant Center for New Community, NUSA's Beck circulates a letter seeking an executive director for a new organization to be named Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR).

January 2009
Marking a major new nativist effort to reach environmentalists, PFIR is founded with a board of directors and board of advisors largely staffed by people with long histories in Tanton's organizations. Among the board members are three men — Morris, Lamm and Pimentel — who led the attempted 2004 takeover of the SC. PFIR Executive Director Leah Durant is a lawyer who earlier worked for FAIR's legal arm, the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI).

April 14, 2009
To considerable press attention, PFIR releases a poll supposedly showing that "liberals are concerned about the current levels of immigration into the United States and the harmful effect that current immigration policies are having on U.S. population growth, the environment, and the availability of jobs."

April 28, 2009
In a visit to the Washington, D.C., offices of PFIR, Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) details his plans to introduce legislation increasing border security and requiring verification of employees' legal status. PFIR's Durant tells a reporter: "There is a lot of concern about the impact mass immigration will have on the environment. In fact, there is a natural marriage here between immigration reform and environmental preservation."

Summer 2009
Tanton's The Social Contract features Durant on its cover and runs a six-page article on PFIR inside. Incredibly, given that Durant is black and portrays herself as a "progressive," the article and a question-and-answer interview with Durant are written by Peter Gemma, a longtime official of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a hate group that opposes racial intermarriage and has described black people as "a retrograde species of humanity."

June 2009
CIS publishes "The Environmental Argument for Reducing Immigration to the United States," blaming immigrants for sprawl, water shortages and other environmental ills. It is written by Winthrop Staples and ATB's Cafaro, who has also joined PFIR's board of advisors. 

June 3, 2009
NUSA's Beck testifies to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on immigration and the environment, claiming that drastically reducing the number of immigrants is "a matter of profound environmental importance for posterity."

June 23, 2009
PFIR's Durant appears on CNN's "Lou Dobbs Tonight" to discuss the group's April poll claiming that liberals are concerned about immigration levels.

July 1, 2009
FAIR releases a report, "Immigration, Energy and the Environment," that blames immigrants for the rise in greenhouses gases.

Aug. 25, 2009
CIS sponsors a panel at the National Press Club on "Immigration, Population, and the Environment: Experts to Debate Impact of Current Policies." The panel includes PFIR's Cafaro, Don Weeden of the Weeden Foundation, and Steven Camarota, director of research for CIS.

October 2009
CIS publishes "Strategic Negligence: How the Sierra Club's Distortions on Border and Immigration Policy Are Undermining its Environmental Legacy," a report that attacks the SC and claims it has "undermined its environmental legacy."

October 2009
Negative Population Growth, which receives funding from FAIR, runs an ad in E-The Environmental Magazine warning of a "population crisis" that may "destroy our future." 

Oct. 4, 2009
PFIR's Durant attends Tanton's 33rd Annual Writers Workshop. She is photographed there alongside Lutton, who has been active in several white supremacist groups and published in a Holocaust denial journal, and Gemma, the CCC official.

Late October 2009
CAPS runs radio ads in California warning that "the real 'inconvenient truth'" is "the fact that population growth and environmental degradation are related" and  "people drive cars, create sprawl, destroy forests and pollute." The ads suggest that "mass immigration" is driving population growth and thus destroying "natural treasures" through overpopulation. 

January 2010
Starlight Media, which is funded by Tanton's foundation U.S. Inc., announces it is nearly finished with a film, "Tomorrow's America." Featuring many leaders of Tanton-linked nativist groups, it focuses on "population growth and immigration" and is meant to "help citizens better understand the history of immigration in the U.S., the mythology that surrounds that history and the roots of current immigration policy in the immigration law of 1965 that led to the new 'great wave' of legal immigration in the 1990s." That narrative echoes Tanton ally Otis Graham, the CIS board member who has long argued that a "mythistory" was created during the civil rights movement that falsely depicted America as a "nation of immigrants." 

Jan. 21, 2010
NUSA's Beck, who describes himself as an environmentalist, speaks on a panel, "Perverse Incentives, Subsidies, and Tax Code Impediments to a Sustainable Economy," at The New Green Economy conference sponsored by the National Council for Science and the Environment. 

Feb. 26, 2010
Mixing environmental with "cultural" concerns, FAIR issues a revealing statement: "Immigration policy must be limited to conserve our environment, open space, and natural resources. It should enhance our national culture, not radically alter or Balkanize it."

March 2010
PFIR releases "From Big to Bigger: How Mass Immigration and Population Growth Have Exacerbated America's Ecological Footprint," by Kolankiewicz, who now serves on PFIR's board of advisors. Kolankiewicz argues that "immigration is increasing America's Ecological Footprint, pushing our country deeper into ecological deficit," and laments environmentalists' scant interest in the issue. He writes that "the Environmental Establishment dropped its advocacy and retreated into uncomfortable silence and abject denial on U.S. population."

April 1, 2010
Jerry Kammer, a former journalist now with CIS, presents an updated version of the CIS paper, "Strategic Negligence: How the Sierra Club's Distortion on Border and Immigration Policy Are Undermining Its Environmental Legacy," at the "Breaking Down the Walls" conference at Arizona State University.

June 2010
FAIR issues an update of a 1999 report, "The Environmentalist's Guide to a Sensible Immigration Policy." The report, which is dated April 2010 despite its actual release date, claims that the "principal cause" of urban sprawl is "immigration-related population growth."

June 23, 2010
Leah Durant of PFIR puts up her first blog post on the popular progressive website, PFIR says it intends to post twice weekly on the site.

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