What does the You Tube video above have to do with a decade-old battle in the environmental movement? What's the connection in Minnesota politics? It's one of those connect-the-dots moments a local citizen journalist sought today.
Over at Minnesota Monitor, New Journalist Dan Haugen looks at How the anti-immigration movement paints itself green.
Haugen writes as if this is some new wrinkle in the anti-immigration movement here in Minnesota and in the nation. The strategy is by no means new.
Nor is the anti-immigration argument that since the United States has run out of open space and resources we should shut down our borders to legal as well as undocumented immigrants. Such arguments generally include the idea that the American consumer lifestyle leaves too large an environmental footprint to have many more people enjoy it.
Perhaps the most notorious episode in this history was the attempted hijacking of the Sierra Club's board of directors in 2004 by the immigration reduction movement. Articles by the Christian Science Monitor (A 'hostile' takeover bid at the Sierra Club), Common Dreams (Board Election Divides Sierra Club) and Mother Jones (The Siege of the Sierra Club) give the details. The Southern Poverty Law Center has also documented the movement.
Find out below the fold about the connection between the billboard and the attempts by immigration reductionists to hijack the environmental movement.
The 21st Century scuffle echoed an earlier battle for the heart of the venerable environmental group. In 1998, the Political Ecology Group produced a study that documented how several immigration reduction groups work to pass an internal ballot proposition that called for immigration controls as one way to halt population growth, according to the New York Times. The measure failed:
About 84,000 of the club's more than 550,000 members cast ballots, considerably more than the 60,000 or 70,000 members who usually vote, club officials said.
Of those who marked the immigration question on the ballot, 31,134, or 39.9 percent, voted in favor of the anti-immigration position, while 46,935, or just over 60.1 percent, voted for a competing proposal that reaffirmed the club's existing policy.
Carl Pope, the club's executive director, who is appointed by the board, said the results amounted to a landslide endorsement of the management's position by the most active of the club's members.
''The Sierra Club cannot protect our environment by building a wall around our borders,'' he said. ''The common-sense solution to reducing our population is birth control, not border patrols.''
By and large in the late 20th and early 21st century, the growth of the environmental justice movement has guided the policy of national environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club, Audubon and other organizations. A 2004 article in Grist about the Sierra Club's battles provides an accurate summary of the approach:
The 1998 neutrality policy, supported by about 60 percent of the members who voted, favored a "comprehensive approach" to population growth and mass migration that would promote reproductive health, women's rights, and economic security throughout the world.
How does this play out on the state level in Minnesota? Haugen mentions a representative of an immigration reduction group called "Minnesotans United for Immigration Reduction," which neither the MinnMon reporter nor we know much about. The spokester talked about the link between the decline of oil supplies and immigration:
"We now have about 303 million people in this country, and I don't think there's any one 'em that doesn't use his or her share of oil," Norm said. " Thirty years ago, roughly 30 years ago, we had 200 million people here. Without immigration we would have about 220 million people, and of that 83 million people extra that we now have here... "
Haugen called this a "novel" explanation, but for Bluestem Prairie, it's the same hobbyhorse sustainability "expert" Dell Erickson has been riding for some time now. His remarks from 1999 can be found here. A Google search turns up a minor trove of hits.
Who is Dell Erickson? The first hit in the trove yields an article in the Social Contract Journal, A Sustainable US Population: When?. The periodical, published by the Social Contract Press, sounds pretty academic. Here's what Source Watch has to say in Social Contract Press - SourceWatch:
The Social Contract Press was founded in 1990 by John Tanton as 'an educational and publishing organization advocating open discussion of such related issues as population size and rate of growth, protection of the environment and precious resources, limits on immigration, as well as preservation and promotion of a shared American language and culture.' Immigration issues are the main topic of the publishing house's books and reports. Among the books and reports published by the press are: Common Sense on Mass Immigration edited by John Tanton; The Camp of the Saints by Jean Raspail; Americans No More by Georgie Anne Geyer; Immigration Dilemma by Garrett Hardin; and The Immigration Invasion by Wayne Lutton and John Tanton."
Who is Mr. Tanton? The SLPC states in The Puppeteer:
The organized anti-immigration 'movement,' increasingly in bed with racist hate groups, is dominated by one man, John Tanton.
John Tanton was a mover and shaker both the 1998 Sierra Club ballot referendum and the 2004 board take-over.
And what role did his author Dell Erickson play in Sierra Club politics? He questioned the existence of the Club's Environmental Justice Committee in 1997. He ran for the board in 1998. Indeed, Erickson has attempted to use other organizations--such as the Izaak Walton League and the Audubon Society--to advance an immigration reduction agenda. Calls to both groups revealed that neither favors immigration reduction.
Dell Erickson also keeps the web site where MinnMon fellow Haugen found the organizational description for the Minnesota Coalition for Immigration Reduction. We have come to know this site well as we look into Minnesota's immigration reduction movement.
Perhaps it seems odd to be able to summon this research within a few hours of Haugen's post going up, and that's how we circle back to the billboard video above. Truth be told, we've been looking at the association between the Minnesota Coalition for Immigration Reduction and Minnesotans For Sustainability ever since December, when a kind friend forwarded an emailed press release sent out by MCFIR's Paul Westrum contained a Twin Cities' contact, Dell Erickson.
The news release also included a link to AOL videos, where we found the YouTube at the head of the post.
Subject: Immediate Press Release
Minnesota Coalition For Immigration Reduction, MCFIR
Please deliver to NEWS EDITOR/DIRECTOR
Dec 17, 2007 For Immediate Release
For media inquiries please contact:
Lead contact: Paul Westrum, Albert Lea, XXXXXXX(number redacted by blogger)
Dell Erickson, Minneapolis: email:(email redacted by blogger)
Immigration Reduction Organization Encourages Congress and Minnesota to deal with illegal immigration.
Albert Lea, MN- Local immigration reduction organization, the Minnesota Coalition for Immigration Reduction (MCFIR) led by Paul Westrum, recently put up the first in a series of Minnesota billboards challenging Federal and State governments to enforce immigration laws and stop illegal immigration. The current billboard location is 2 miles north of Faribault along I 35 North. There is a deep and spreading corruption in this land which must be addressed. The lack of immigration law enforcement undermines our national character and weakens the fabric of our society.
* The return to Federal and State enforcement of immigration laws
* Efforts to secure borders
* Rep. Heath Shuler's SAVE Act requiring employers to use the E-Verify System
* Local police use of Sect. 287g to assist DHS enforcement of immigration law
* Attrition Through Enforcement and Self-deportation
* Elimination of "birthright citizenship" for illegal aliens and its instant citizens
* Requiring proof of citizenship to register and to vote
* Proof of eligibility for non-federally required public benefits
* illegal alien amnesty in any form
* illegal alien sanctuary cities -Minneapolis & St. Paul.
MCFIR is a privately funded grassroots organization of concerned citizens who have united to fight illegal immigration. The growing frustration with the Federal and Minnesota governments' response to illegal immigration and border protection has prompted the MCFIR to act.
Neither MCFIR nor Minnesotans for Sustainability is registered as a lobbying association or political action committee with the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board.
The press release also omits its first agenda item from the MCFIR page at Minnesotans for Sustainability:
We feel that the number of legal immigrants should be cut back from the nearly 1-million we currently let in per year to 200,000. From 1924 – 1965, we let in an average of 178,000 immigrants per year.
(And, no, we have no idea who Norm is. Haugen's on his own unraveling that mystery).