Immigration is once again at the center of national debate, deemed a major threat to
Immigrants have always been subject to repression and abuse in times of economic decline and political crisis. But anti-immigrant violence, hate crimes and a new type of racial, ethnic and religious profiling have spiraled out of control since 91 11. Thousands of Muslims, Arabs, South Asians, Middle Eastern, African and Asian immigrants are being harassed, arrested, jailed, and many deported, as part of the domestic "war on terrorism." The three major anti-terrorist laws—the USA PATRIOT Act, the Aviation and Transportation Security Act and the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act—severely restrict immigrant rights. Growing numbers of immigrants and citizens working in industries or sectors of the economy considered vulnerable to terrorist attacks—including airports, energy, transportation and even kiosks—are being subjected to heavy scrutiny and immigration raids, job loss, deportation and imprisonment.
Certain right-wing groups, especially the Federation for American Immigration Reform, have never stopped blaming immigration and immigrants, in particular, for sprawl, traffic congestion, deterioration of services and education, environmental degradation and pollution, unemployment, crime, over-population and even the cultural decline of the
The consequences for the environmental health of communities are devastating. While the right-wing groups want to dose the border and drastically limit immigration they have no qualms about importing natural resources and exporting pollution across borders. Like ecological systems, communities of color do not have borders. Environmental justice recognizes that environmental racism has global and disproportionate impacts on sister communities, which are being subjected to toxic waste and industrial polluting production. For environmental justice community groups, organizers and advocates, the challenge is to protect all communities of color, regardless of their immigration status.
Globalization and Migration
In the debate over immigration's impact on the
The International Office for Migration reports that one in every 35 persons worldwide is a migrant with some 175 million people migrating across borders. That is almost three times the number of individuals displaced by World War II. While this represents a very small portion of the world's population, global migration is an indicator of the severe displacement being caused by "free" trade and the social, political and economic disruptions being visited upon communities across the world. For many, migration becomes the only option for survival.
Over 85 percent of immigrants in the
While the Right blames immigrants for the plight of inner cities and increasing racial disparities, the scapegoating of immigrants draws attention away from the government and business agenda institutionalized in the 1980s by then-President Ronald Reagan. That agenda imposed cutbacks and privatization of public services, and reversed and curtailed civil rights, environmental protections, and labor rights in order to maximize profits and capital mobility. Services, investments, industries, jobs and capital have since moved to the suburbs and across international borders, facilitated by "free" trade agreements. Low-income and working people, communities of color and immigrants bear the brunt of these changes.
The anti-immigrant agenda pits low-wage workers of color against immigrants and against each other, obscuring the structural conditions that deny access to living wage jobs and services to all workers. Repeating the mantra that immigration poses the greatest threat to the environment and dwindling resources, anti-immigrant groups are successfully promoting their belief that population—and not consumption—is the problem.
Justice for Immigrants, People of Color
Immigration is not a law enforcement or anti-terrorist problem. The immigrant rights movement is ultimately about securing sustainable community development and human rights, including labor, cultural, civil, social, economic and environmental rights, for everyone. Immigrant rights are also about equality and racial, economic and environmental justice. Immigrants, people of color, and low-income and working people share the same problems of poverty, access to jobs and housing, and suffer the same levels of unemployment and exposure to environmental degradation. Together they form a majority in the