Immigration lawsuit on environmental grounds
Last November, Californians for Population Stabilization joined a federal lawsuit filed by the Washington, D.C.-based Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for their failures to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
According to IRLI, between 1990 and 2010, the U.S. population grew by more than 60 million people because of “expansive immigration policies and lax enforcement.” The historically high immigration-fueled population growth resulted in numerous, significant negative environmental impacts. Yet even during this period of accelerated, unprecedented immigration, DHS and its predecessor, Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS), flouted NEPA’s mandate to evaluate the environmental impacts of their policies, and failed to produce a legally required environmental impact study.
IRLI alleges that federal immigration policies require a NEPA review. Immigration brings about one million legal permanent residents to the U.S. annually. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of non-immigrants come to the U.S. each year on various temporary visas. Add to this the non-enforcement of immigration laws, and the failure to secure the northern and southern border, and the numbers mount.
Since NEPA became law on January 1, 1970, federal agencies proposing policies, programs or projects that could affect the “human environment” must prepare a detailed environmental impact statement, the results of which must be made public.
Yet, despite historically high immigration levels since NEPA became law, no impact study has been undertaken either by the Department of Homeland Security or INS. Republican and Democratic White Houses have willfully shirked their responsibility to provide the American public with the information they are legally entitled to know to help them come to their own conclusions about whether they believe we need more or less immigration.
I’m writing from D.C. and have this progress report to share on the lawsuit’s status: no progress has been made other than DHS postponement requests, disappointing but hardly surprising since the last thing federal government officials want is entanglement with individuals knowledgeable about immigration and its short- and long-term environmental consequences.
The lawsuit shouldn’t be perceived as a tree-hugger issue, but one that if successful would enhance the lives of millions of Americans, young and old, urban and rural and from all economic strata.
In “An Environmental Impact Statement on U.S. Immigration Levels,” environmental scientist and planner Leon Kolankiewicz summarizes findings from research he conducted with Progressives for Immigration Reform about the impacts of immigration. Looking at three levels of immigration, Kolankiewicz addresses consequences on CO2 emissions, water, energy and land consumption.
The first level is a “no-action scenario,” which means current rates of immigration of about 1.25 million annually remain through 2100. The second scenario is based on immigration of 2.25 million annually, and the third is a reduction to 250,000 annually (which aligns with earlier historical levels of immigration).
Both no action and expanding immigration would result in rapid U.S. population growth throughout the 21st century, to 2100 and beyond, with no perceivable limit to growth. This means “adverse to highly adverse, significant and long-term cumulative environmental impacts on suburban sprawl, farmland loss, water resources, habitat loss, biodiversity, carbon dioxide emissions, energy supplies and security, and international ecosystems.”
Of the three alternatives evaluated, only the reduction alternative could stall U.S. population growth before 2100, and offer at least the possibility, but not the guarantee, of U.S. environmental stability. A Senate bill that would help slow immigration and stabilize population, the RAISE Act, has been introduced and is the beginning of what will be a long, arduous congressional battle for approval among mostly uninformed or disinterested legislators. In the meantime, a DHS decision on the lawsuit’s merits is expected in early October.