Breaking: Immigration Deal Disaster for Environment, Workers

By Glenn Hurowitz

Cross-posted at Democratic Courage blog.

Senate Democrats and Republicans have concluded an "immigration reform" deal that will be a disaster for the environment and workers. To placate extremist anti-immigrant activists, Democrats agreed to go ahead and finance construction of 370 miles of fencing along the Mexican border. The double-layered concrete wall will cut off endangered wildlife like jaguars, Sonoran pronghorn antelope, and the ferruginous pygmy owl from their habitat and divide several wildlife refuges that local conservationists fought for decades to create. Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff has made the situation worse by waiving all environmental laws to expedite construction of the wall.

But the wall may be just one part of the environmental double whammy likely from any grand bargain on immigration. There's significant evidence that the influx of people from less developed countries like Mexico to developed countries like the United States is helping fuel the United States's rapid increase in global warming pollution by increasing the number of people partaking of America's high consumption habits.

It's also one force driving the sprawl eating up the countryside in cities everywhere. But most mainstream environmental groups have sat outthe immigration debate. The issue has historically divided the movement between those who sympathize with immigrants' hunger for a better life (and who point out that the only reason immigration has such a negative effect on the planet is because the American way of life is so polluting to beging with) and harder core activists for whom environmental concerns always come first. National environmental groups are wary of reviving these fights.  With environmentalists largely sitting out the fight, many usually pro-environment Democrats are all too happy to ignore these hidden costs of immigration as they seek to placate immigration advocates and foes alike.

In addition to the environmental consequences of the deal, unions like SEIU are worried that it could drive down wages by shutting off a path to citizenship for workers - meaning that workers would just come here for minimum wage jobs and be forced to leave without having an opportunity to eventually take on higher paying work and, for instance, join or organize a union. Indeed, there are only likely to be two main beneficiaries to this bill: the contractors who get the billions of dollars needed to finance the wall, and corporate employers looking to drive wages down, expose workers to unsafe conditions, prevent workers from joining unions, terrorize workers to such an extent that when they spray them with pesticides or lop off a limb in a meat-packing plant they don't complain, and stop Democratic-leaning Latinos from becoming citizens lest they use their power to create a more progressive, worker-friendly, pro-environment society.

Tags: border wall, Democrats, Environment, environmental movement, Homeland Security, immigration, Latinos, Mexico, Michael Chertoff, Republicans (all tags)

Comments

3 Comments

You leave out the H-1B disaster

In this bill, H-1Bs will increase from 65K now to 115K next year, and then escalate by 20 % per year.  Plus, every year that the quota is filled, they are permitted to increase by 20% again.

This is a disaster.

by dataguy 2007-05-17 11:25AM | 0 recs
H1-B Visa

We should increase the H1-B Visa cap even more.  If an engineer from China or India wants to come here, and bring their skills and talents with them, it will only raise our standard of living and improve our economy.

by ditka 2007-05-17 12:14PM | 0 recs
Re: H1-B Visa

Raise the standard of living for whom? It will surely raise dividend returns for corporate investors; however, it will lower salaries and job opportunities for high-tech workers here in the US who compete for those jobs.

If the industry truly had a shortage of high-tech workers, the first indicator to increase is the salary offered, not the number of foreign workers insourced to do the work for less money. But we don't have a tight labor market; otherwise, salaries would rise to attract the needed labor.

For instance, the percentage of salary increases for high-wage, high-tech workers over the last five years has increased marginally, which is far below worker productivity rates. This suggests we have an oversupply of workers being paid less for doing more.

This open-border, amnesty, cheap-labor bill is nothing more than an attempt to rig the labor markets to benefit business interests. Democrats should be ashamed of themselves for throwing American workers under the bus for the promise of votes in the future.

by fafnir 2007-05-17 01:31PM | 0 recs

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