How environmentalists shaped Republican immigration policy

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On Monday, May 28, the Sierra Club turned 126 years old. Throughout its existence, the group's lobbying for environmental regulations has earned it a permanent place in progressive circles. But many may be surprised that the group was once a haven for immigration restrictionists.

The Club's restrictionist origins can be traced back to 1968 when it published a best-selling book titled The Population Bomb by biologist Paul R. Ehrlich. In it, Ehrlich argued that population growth was responsible for the earth's environmental decline, and advocated for immediate action in fighting against overpopulation. In the 1980s, the Sierra Club urged Congress to make population stabilization a chief US goal. A few years later the Club asserted that "Immigration to the U.S. should be no greater than that which will permit achievement of population stabilization in the U.S."

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One of the members who was influenced by Ehrlich's work was the Michigan eye doctor John Tanton. Tanton's concern about population growth's impact on the environment inspired him to serve as chairman of the Sierra Club's population stabilization committee from 1971 to 1975. In 1979, those same concerns propelled him to create the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which would become one of the most influential US organizations advocating for less immigration.

Six years after creating FAIR, Tanton helped secure a grant that launched the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) a think tank that describes itself as "Low immigration, Pro-immigrant." He also helped his former editor, Roy Beck, raise funds to launch NumbersUSA, a grassroots nonprofit that's also devoted to immigration reduction.

Tanton's engagement with FAIR ended when he left the advisory board in 2002, and his involvement in CIS and NumbersUSA never extended beyond his startup assistance. But some people involved in the restrictionist network are motivated by the same environmental concerns that worried Tanton. Roy Beck, for example, is a disgruntled former environmental reporter who blames poor air and water quality and a lack of open spaces on overpopulation from immigration. The Colcom Foundation, the largest funder of immigration restriction groups is animated by the same set of concerns, with their mission being to "foster a sustainable environment…by addressing the major causes and consequences of overpopulation."

Several of these environmentalists are concerned enough about overpopulation that they have outright advocated for abortion to reduce the US population size.

Several of these environmentalists are concerned enough about overpopulation that they have outright advocated for abortion to reduce the US population size. CIS Fellow David North, for example, argues that "too many people means too much pollution and not enough green space." He believes that there should be a "low-growth population organization" that seeks to "curtail needless restrictions on abortion." This is similar to the mission of the Weeden Foundation, another funder of FAIR, CIS, and NumbersUSA. The Foundation says that "an increasing population causes greater impact on the environment and loss of biodiversity" and believes that the liberalizing of Latin American abortion laws are among the "interventions necessary to lower birthrates." Tanton himself started a local Planned Parenthood Chapter in Northern Michigan for the same reasons he started FAIR.

At first glance, it's difficult to see the environmentalists in a coalition with other restrictionists. The former is comprised of a largely secular, socially liberal elite. The latter is filled with economic and cultural populists. But what they hold in common is a shared belief in a zero-sum world and an ahistorically, pessimistic outlook for what voluntary human cooperation can accomplish.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of CIS, observed in the National Review that 14 years ago there were left/right alliances on both sides of the immigration debate, and the choice was between the patriotic coalition or the post-American coalition.

American conservatism is built on the precepts that individuals are valued as ends in themselves and that public problems are best answered by civil society.

But people are defined by their own principles, not those of their coalition partners. American conservatism is built on the precepts that individuals are valued as ends in themselves and that public problems are best answered by civil society. A conservative vision for the American immigration system is one that removes barriers that impede individual choice, opportunity, and the exercise of responsibility.

Immigration restrictionists of the left and the right may have different reasons for their positions, but both are similar in that they demand the sacrifice of individual liberty in favor of centrally planned objectives.

Sam Peak is a Young Voices Advocate and opinion journalist who writes about immigration policy. You can follow him on twitter @Tiger_Speak.

This was one of the first homesteads in the area in the 1880's and was just begging to be brought back to its original glory — with a touch of modern. When we first purchased the property, it was full of old stuff without any running water, central heat or AC, so needless to say, we had a huge project ahead of us. It took some vision and a whole lot of trust, but the mess we started with seven years ago is now a place we hope the original owners would be proud of.

To restore something like this is really does take a village. It doesn't take much money to make it cozy inside, if like me you are willing to take time and gather things here and there from thrift shops and little antique shops in the middle of nowhere.

But finding the right craftsman is a different story.

Matt Jensen and his assistant Rob did this entire job from sketches I made. Because he built this in his off hours it took just over a year, but so worth the wait. It wasn't easy as it was 18"out of square. He had to build around that as the entire thing we felt would collapse. Matt just reinforced the structure and we love its imperfections.

Here are a few pictures of the process and the transformation from where we started to where we are now:

​How it was

It doesn't look like much yet, but just you wait and see!

By request a photo tour of the restored cabin. I start doing the interior design in earnest tomorrow after the show, but all of the construction guys are now done. So I mopped the floors, washed the sheets, some friends helped by washing the windows. And now the unofficial / official tour.

The Property

The views are absolutely stunning and completely peaceful.

The Hong Kong protesters flocking to the streets in opposition to the Chinese government have a new symbol to display their defiance: the Stars and Stripes. Upset over the looming threat to their freedom, the American flag symbolizes everything they cherish and are fighting to preserve.

But it seems our president isn't returning the love.

Trump recently doubled down on the United States' indifference to the conflict, after initially commenting that whatever happens is between Hong Kong and China alone. But he's wrong — what happens is crucial in spreading the liberal values that America wants to accompany us on the world stage. After all, "America First" doesn't mean merely focusing on our own domestic problems. It means supporting liberal democracy everywhere.

The protests have been raging on the streets since April, when the government of Hong Kong proposed an extradition bill that would have allowed them to send accused criminals to be tried in mainland China. Of course, when dealing with a communist regime, that's a terrifying prospect — and one that threatens the judicial independence of the city. Thankfully, the protesters succeeded in getting Hong Kong's leaders to suspend the bill from consideration. But everyone knew that the bill was a blatant attempt by the Chinese government to encroach on Hong Kong's autonomy. And now Hong Kong's people are demanding full-on democratic reforms to halt any similar moves in the future.

After a generation under the "one country, two systems" policy, the people of Hong Kong are accustomed to much greater political and economic freedom relative to the rest of China. For the protesters, it's about more than a single bill. Resisting Xi Jinping and the Communist Party means the survival of a liberal democracy within distance of China's totalitarian grasp — a goal that should be shared by the United States. Instead, President Trump has retreated to his administration's flawed "America First" mindset.

This is an ideal opportunity for the United States to assert our strength by supporting democratic values abroad. In his inaugural address, Trump said he wanted "friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world" while "understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their interests first." But at what point is respecting sovereignty enabling dictatorships? American interests are shaped by the principles of our founding: political freedom, free markets, and human rights. Conversely, the interests of China's Communist Party are the exact opposite. When these values come into conflict, as they have in Hong Kong, it's our responsibility to take a stand for freedom — even if those who need it aren't within our country's borders.

Of course, that's not a call for military action. Putting pressure on Hong Kong is a matter of rhetoric and positioning — vital tenets of effective diplomacy. When it comes to heavy-handed world powers, it's an approach that can really work. When the Solidarity movement began organizing against communism in Poland, President Reagan openly condemned the Soviet military's imposition of martial law. His administration's support for the pro-democracy movement helped the Polish people gain liberal reforms from the Soviet regime. Similarly, President Trump doesn't need to be overly cautious about retribution from Xi Jinping and the Chinese government. Open, strong support for democracy in Hong Kong not only advances America's governing principles, but also weakens China's brand of authoritarianism.

After creating a commission to study the role of human rights in U.S. foreign policy, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote last month that the principles of our Constitution are central "not only to Americans," but to the rest of the world. He was right — putting "America First" means being the first advocate for freedom across the globe. Nothing shows the strength of our country more than when, in crucial moments of their own history, other nations find inspiration in our flag.

Let's join the people of Hong Kong in their defiance of tyranny.

Matt Liles is a writer and Young Voices contributor from Austin, Texas.

Summer is ending and fall is in the air. Before you know it, Christmas will be here, a time when much of the world unites to celebrate the love of family, the generosity of the human spirit, and the birth of the Christ-child in Bethlehem.

For one night only at the Kingsbury Hall in Salt Lake City, on December 7th, join internationally-acclaimed radio host and storyteller Glenn Beck as he walks you through tales of Christmas in the way that only he can. There will be laughs, and there might be a few tears. But at the end of the night, you'll leave with a warm feeling in your heart and a smile on your face.

Reconnect to the true spirit of Christmas with Glenn Beck, in a storytelling tour de force that you won't soon forget.

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The general sale period will be Friday, August 16 at 10:00 AM MDT. Stay tuned to for updates. We look forward to sharing in the Christmas spirit with you!