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Immigrants, Environment, and Enlightenment

Oct16
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Immigrants, Environment, and Enlightenment

As the election draws near, political candidates and their supporters work frantically to sway American voters with the hot topics de jour:  the economy, health care, environmental concerns, immigration, etc.  A recent popular combination of hot topics matches immigration issues against environmental concerns:  If you are for immigration reform then you are against the environment, because immigrants consume our resources and produce more pollution.  However, the Center for American Progress (CAP) recently published a report which debunks the popular Nativist and anti-immigrant group arguments that immigrants are bad for our environment.

CAP entreats voters not to be fooled by the anti-immigrant rhetoric using environmental concerns as a front.  Congress desperately needs to address both climate change and immigration issues immediately, but we will have to wait now until after the elections.  Setting the two issues at odds with each other during the elections, though, is not the answer, and more importantly, according to CAP, is misleading.

The CAP report analyzes the opposition’s arguments point for point.  The overriding argument blames immigration growth for our environmental woes.  CAP explains this argument is misguided and based on the premise that more people equals more consumption.  However, the United States is a shining example of how this argument fails.  Our country only amounts to 5{b6b8f04f7bd4b863c4cfed8339fd19419bda3e071c79bc5ac8c810cb9c52e30f} of the world’s population, but we contribute 25{b6b8f04f7bd4b863c4cfed8339fd19419bda3e071c79bc5ac8c810cb9c52e30f} of the world’s total carbon footprint.

The report further explains that United States cities with the smallest carbon footprints include Los Angeles and New York City.  Data shows that urban areas with higher residential density and more readily available public transportation lead to less consumption per capita.  Analogous data shows that the majority of immigrants prefers to settle in these very same urban areas and tends to shy away from the sprawling suburbs.  Nativists argue that immigrants are the reason for urban sprawl, but CAP counters that US policies marketed since World War II caused the present problem of overgrown suburbia, not any recent surge in immigration, legal or otherwise.

In fact, CAP highlights that immigrants may contribute to the solution rather than further the problem, since “nearly 70 percent of the men and women who entered the science and engineering fields from 1995 to 2006 were immigrants.”  And we will need to continue growing our ranks of engineers and scientists, since economists predict that “[b]y 2020 . . . clean energy will be one of the world’s biggest industries, totaling as much as $2.3 trillion.”

The CAP report is another example of how we as voters must arm ourselves with knowledge to better select our candidates this election season.  Simplistic rhetoric which blames our country’s problems on one group or another must not be taken on face value, but further investigated before we complete our ballot on Election Day.

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