The Liberal Case for Immigration Reform -- A Manifesto

By B. Meredith Burke
Volume 10, Number 4 (Summer 2000)
Issue theme: "Liberals and immigration reform - can they be recruited?"

The Liberal Case for Immigration Reform [On August 15, 1996, Dr. Burke wrote a 'manifesto' as a founding document for a group to be called 'Liberals for Immigration Reform.'] WHEREAS we believe that those governing a society have primary obligations to the electorate to safeguard the environment and the health of current residents and to pass along a self-sustaining and healthy environment to our descendants; and WHEREAS, two governmental commissions in 1972 and 1996 have recommended in strongest terms a population stabilization policy for the United States, acknowledging the implications for immigration policy; and WHEREAS, signs of an overstressed environment are clearly evident in depleted fisheries, unhealthy air quality, paved-over farmland permanently removed from crop-growing for all generations to come, congested, still-growing urban populations swollen beyond those endorsed by Americans in repeated polls, and a level of resource consumption that is draining the globe as well as our country; and WHEREAS, the legislators of the Democratic Party and the boards of several progressive environmental protection organizations, traditionally the defenders of the environment and civic well-being, have consistently rejected calls by Party and organization members for demographic and environmental accountability for their actions in the area of immigration, now and for the foreseeable future the primary source (and by the year 2030, the sole source, counting in the descendants of post-1970 newcomers) of all this country's population increase; and WHEREAS, numerous scholars have now confirmed what members of our minority and poor communities have personally experienced, that the employment, housing, schools, and life chances of our most disadvantaged citizens have been adversely affected by the large influx of newcomers, WE HEREBY band together to strengthen the voice of liberals calling for environmentally rational population and immigration policies and immigration reform. WE CALL FOR * the promulgation of a national population goal consistent with ecological limits and the city size and wilderness access endorsed by the majority of Americans. * a legal requirement that all federal policies dealing with the sources of population growth - childbearing and immigration - must be consistent with the accepted goals. * a legal requirement that all federal actions/policies must consider the resulting regional effects (environmental and demographic) and must refrain from adding to the burden disproportionately assumed by regions experiencing the bulk of recent population growth, environmental deterioration, and the loss of irreplaceable wetlands and other ecologically essential natural habitats. * a legal requirement for an agricultural policy favoring family farms and the retention of a land-based rural population; and withholding public subsidies, including reduced water rates, from large agricultural corporations. * a national referendum if necessary on support for U.S. funding of international family planning efforts to reduce the demographic pressures fueling high levels of immigration.

About the author

B. Meredith Burke, Ph.D., a demographer who has worked eher and abroad, is Population Policy Advisor to the Ecology Center of Southern California.