Center for American Progress

RELEASE: CAP Analysis Debunks Right-Wing Campaign That Blames Immigrants for U.S. Environmental Problems
Press Release

RELEASE: CAP Analysis Debunks Right-Wing Campaign That Blames Immigrants for U.S. Environmental Problems

Washington, D.C. – A new issue brief from the Center for American Progress debunks a disturbing—and widely discredited—campaign led by right-wing pundits and policymakers to blame immigrants for environmental problems in the United States.

The brief shows how a handful of right-wing anti-immigration zealots have misused data, including those published by the Center for American Progress on the loss of natural places, to make xenophobic arguments for anti-immigration policies. The individuals and organizations that are most fervently propagating this argument come largely from well-funded hate groups that are abusing discredited ideologies that were prevalent in the 19th-century American conservation movement in an attempt to make their racist rhetoric more palatable to a public concerned about the health of their environment.

In fact, scientific research has resoundingly refuted the premise that immigrants are responsible for environmental decline. The root cause of environmental damage is structural and can be traced to factors such as inadequate regulation of polluting industries; the destruction of wildlife habitat to accommodate wealthy exurbs; government policies that concentrate toxic poisons and environmental destruction near communities of color and low-income communities; subsidies for fossil fuel extraction; trampling of Indigenous rights to accommodate drilling and mining projects; and the propagation of a throw-away culture by industrial powerhouses.

“Anti-immigrant rhetoric stemming from discredited pseudoscience has evolved into an extreme right-wing greenwashing effort that the modern conservation movement is right to reject,” said Jenny Rowland-Shea, co-author of the brief and senior policy analyst for Public Lands at the Center for American Progress. “These bogus claims are hurting the people—immigrants, Indigenous people, and people of color—who already bear a disproportionate burden of environmental problems. These groups are increasingly the base of the climate justice and conservation movements.”

The brief finds that policies aimed at limiting carbon emissions, air pollution, and the destruction of natural places are the solutions to the nation’s environmental problems—not curtailing immigration.

Read the issue brief: “The Extremist Campaign to Blame Immigrants for U.S. Environmental Problems” by Jenny Rowland-Shea and Sahir Doshi

For more information or to talk to an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at [email protected] or 202-478-6327.