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Immigration and the 54th Anniversary of NEPA

author Published by Henry Barbaro

The month of January marks the 54th anniversary of when the modern environmental movement started. In the 1970s major environmental protection initiatives became law starting with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires that all federal agencies evaluate the environmental impacts of their actions.

The first concern addressed in NEPA’s “Congressional declaration of national environmental policy” was the “profound influences of population growth” because of its role in driving a wide variety of environmental impacts, e.g., the need for new development and infrastructure, which decreases open space and destroys natural wildlife habitat, and increases overall energy and water consumption, and air and water pollution.

Immigration policy has not upheld the vision of NEPA.

Millions of people have crossed the border and settled into the United States illegally over the last two years. Congress and the Executive Branch continue to be incapable and/or unwilling to revisit our immigration policies. If current trends remain unchanged, the Census Bureau projects the U.S. population will add 75 million people by the Year 2060, with more than 90 percent of that growth resulting from immigration.

Environmental analyses under NEPA would be an ideal mechanism to evaluate immigration policies. A proper NEPA review would consider alternatives to high immigration rates (e.g., worker training, seasonal workers) rather than defer to short-sighted political whims (e.g., importing cheap labor). Implemented as it was intended, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) would weigh the pros and cons of immigration, while serving to minimize the harms to Americans and the natural environment.

Congress sets immigration policies, immigration is driving America’s population growth, and population growth is driving widespread environmental degradation. Hopefully, immigration will someday become subject to environmental review. In the meantime, we need to take steps to effect obvious fixes, such as ending the abuses of parole and asylum. Please contact your member of Congress to stress that border reform (i.e., control) has become a top priority.

See also: Conservation Challenges; Sustainability Initiative

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