The Extremist Campaign to Blame Immigrants for US Environmental Problems

Of interest. Haven’t seen too much of that here in Canada but may have missed:

With growing frequency over the past four years, right-wing pundits, policymakers, and political operatives have fiercely and furiously blamed immigrants for the degradation and decline of nature in the United States. William Perry Pendley, who temporarily ran the U.S. Bureau of Land Management under former President Donald Trump, saw “immigration as one of the biggest threats to public lands,” according to an agency spokesperson.1 A handful of right-wing anti-immigration zealots, including Joe Guzzardi, have repeatedly misused data published by the Center for American Progress on nature loss to make xenophobic arguments for anti-immigration policies.2 This so-called “greening of hate”—a term explored by Guardian reporter Susie Cagle—is a common refrain in a wide range of conservative and white supremacist arguments, including those of Ann Coulter, Fox News host Tucker Carlson, neo-Nazi Richard Spencer, and the manifestos of more than one mass shooter.3

The claim that immigration is to blame for America’s environmental problems is so absurd, racist, and out of the mainstream that it is easily debunked and tempting to ignore. The scientific community, and the little research that has been conducted in this area, resoundingly refutes the premise. Consider, for example, the environmental damage caused by weak and inadequate regulation of polluting industries; the destruction of wildlife habitat to accommodate wealthy exurbs and second homes; the design and propagation of policies that concentrate toxic poisons and environmental destruction near communities of color and low-income communities; the continued subsidization of fossil fuel extraction and trampling of Indigenous rights to accommodate drilling and mining projects; and the propagation of a throw-away culture by industrial powerhouses. All of these factors and others cause exponentially more severe environmental harm than a family that is fleeing violence, poverty, or suffering to seek a new life in the United States.

The extremist effort to blame immigrants for the nation’s environmental problems deserves scrutiny—and not merely for the purpose of disproving its xenophobic and outlandish claims. The contours, origins, funding sources, and goals of this right-wing effort must be understood in order to effectively combat it and ensure that the extremists pushing it have no place in the conservation movement. The individuals and organizations that are most fervently propagating this argument come largely from well-funded hate groups that are abusing discredited ideologies that were prevalent in the 19th-century American conservation movement in an attempt to make their racist rhetoric more palatable to a public concerned about the health of their environment.

While leaders of the contemporary, mainstream environmental movement in the United States have disavowed this strain of thought and are working to confront the legacies of colonialism and racism in environmental organizations and policies, a small set of right-wing political operatives are trying to magnify overtly xenophobic and false environmental arguments to achieve specific political objectives. In particular, these right-wing political operatives and their deep-pocketed funders are seeking to broaden the appeal of their anti-immigration zealotry by greenwashing their movement and supplying their right-wing base with alternative explanations for environmental decline that sidestep the culpability of the conservative anti-regulatory agenda. In their refusal to confront the true reasons for environmental decline, they are hurting the people—immigrants, Indigenous peoples, and people of color—who bear a disproportionate burden of environmental consequences and are increasingly the base of the climate justice and conservation movements.

Contextualizing anti-immigrant thought in environmentalism

Today’s right-wing activists who are blaming immigrants for the destruction of nature are, unfortunately, drawing from and building on a long and troubling history of racism, colonialism, and xenophobia in the U.S. environmental movement that harks back to the violent dispossession of lands from Indigenous tribal nations. To understand the power and dangers of this extremist movement—and where it diverges from the current mainstream environmental movement—it is important to trace the origin of population control, eugenics, and anti-immigration ideologies within the U.S. environmental movement.

The discredited roots of environmental racism

Some of the earliest and most active proponents of land conservation in the United States also espoused anti-immigration, white supremacist, and racist views. For example, Madison Grant—a close friend of President Theodore Roosevelt and influential voice in species conservation, including playing a role in protecting the American bison and California redwood—served as director of the American Eugenics Society and vice president of the Immigration Restriction League.4 Grant played a key role in the passage of a 1924 law restricting immigration by Asians and Arabs.5 John Muir, known as the father of national parks, expressed racism toward Black and Native Americans and promoted ideas of restricting immigration by nonwhites.6

The notion that immigration was to blame for environmental destruction resurged in the 1970s, just as Europe’s population was plateauing and that of the Global South began to grow. During this period, many deemed overpopulation-driven resource depletion one of the largest challenges facing the planet. Paul Ehrlich’s 1968 book, The Population Bomb, which argued that overpopulation would fuel famine and global upheaval, proved very influential in the environmental movement at the time.7 This idea—which ignored the enormous difference in consumption patterns between countries—reinforced the idea already floating among U.S. nativists, which falsely associated global population growth and immigration growth.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, these xenophobic ideas existed within some environmental nonprofits, including Earth First! and the Rewilding Institute, both of which were started by extremist activist Dave Foreman.8 The environmental argument for anti-immigrant policies also tracks closely with the Sierra Club’s history, and its association with one person—John Tanton—has had perhaps the most lasting impact.9 Tanton, whom the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) calls “the racist architect of the modern anti-immigrant movement” and who died in 2019, was a Sierra Club official in the 1980s and went on to form many prominent anti-immigration groups, including many that dabble in environmental messaging.10

Up until the 1990s, population control was part of the Sierra Club’s core platform. For decades, a faction within the organization—including Tanton—worked to use the Sierra Club’s influence to promote policies to block immigration and undermine immigrant rights. In 1998, Tanton and others pushed a vote about whether or not the Sierra Club would take a strong public stance against immigration. The proposal was narrowly defeated by the Sierra Club’s members, leading to a full separation from this ideology in the early 2000s.11 But Tanton’s groups continue to try to influence environmental progressives.12

Today, as major environmental groups grapple with their own systems of exclusion and injustice and reevaluate heroes and founders such as Muir and Roosevelt, the mainstream conservation movement no longer considers anti-immigrant arguments legitimate or accurate.13

The ‘greening of hate’

While the history of this anti-immigrant argument has roots in environmentalism, today, this line of thinking is primarily propagated by extremists who are cloaking themselves as conservationists to make their arguments more palatable. Researchers refer to this phenomena as the “greening of hate.”14 The individuals making these arguments are backed by many of the most prominent anti-immigration groups and funders, several of which the SPLC have flagged as white supremacist hate groups.

Greenwashed hate groups and their funders

Nearly every formal argument claiming immigrants as the source of environmental degradation can be traced back to a handful of anti-immigration groups funded and founded by extremists far outside of the mainstream environmental movement.

Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). Founded by John Tanton, FAIR was deemed a hate group by the SPLC because of its ties to white supremacist groups and eugenicists.15

Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). Also founded by Tanton, CIS was deemed a hate group by the SPLC because it repeatedly publishes and promotes white supremacist and anti-Semitic writers and makes false claims about the criminality of immigrants.16

Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR). PFIR, also tied to Tanton, is perhaps the most central organization in the anti-immigrant greenwashing universe.17 The group has been flagged by the SPLC for hosting a “cynical greenwashing campaign to recruit environmentalists to the anti-immigrant cause by blaming them for urban sprawl, overconsumption and a host of other environmental problems.”18

Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS). CAPS was founded by Garrett Hardin, a University of California, Santa Barbara professor and FAIR board member, who famously wrote the essay, “The Tragedy of the Commons,” which he used to support his ideology of preventing the “wrong” people—specifically nonwhite people—from reproducing.19 Like many others on this list, the group has ties to Tanton and was found to have hired white supremacists.20

NumbersUSA. Also founded by Tanton, the group is considered a nativist organization along the lines of FAIR and CIS.21 Don Weeden, of the Weeden Foundation, formerly served as the group’s treasurer and on the board of directors and until recently was one of the group’s independent directors.22

The Rewilding Institute. Compared with other groups on this list—which are largely focused on immigration but use environmentalism as a conduit—this one does focus on environmental issues but has frequently pushed similar lines of thought on immigration as those listed above, often through population-growth dog whistles.23 The group was founded by Dave Foreman—who was kicked out of Earth First!, another group he co-founded—in the 1980s for his extreme anti-immigrant beliefs.24 Foreman is still actively associated with Rewilding and frequently associates with organizations such as CAPS and publishes anti-immigration op-eds.25

Colcom Foundation. Based in Pittsburgh, Colcom was founded by Mellon Bank heiress Cordelia Scaife May, who believed that her life’s purpose was curbing the threat of overpopulation by limiting immigration to the United States.26 According to public tax filings, Colcom is the single-largest funder of anti-immigrant groups in the United States, giving around $150 million since 2005.27 The foundation provides the bulk of funding to Tanton’s anti-immigration groups, including PFIR, NumbersUSA, FAIR, and CIS, along with nominal money for environmental causes. In February 2020, activists protested Colcom, describing it as “not an environmental organization that dabbles in white supremacy, [but] a white supremacist group that dabbles in environmentalism.” Several environmental organizations have subsequently severed ties to the foundation.28 Colcom Vice President John Rohe, who decades ago published a book about Tanton, denied activists’ claims about the organization, saying, “To be concerned about the level of immigrants due to overpopulation is not anti-immigrant.”29

Weeden Foundation. Led by Don Weeden, the foundation has provided funding to CAPS, the Rewilding Institute, NumbersUSA, PFIR, FAIR, and CIS, along with biodiversity and wilderness conservation organizations and projects.30 Several of its officers have also been very active in leadership and boards within the anti-immigration groups that they fund.31

Foundation for the Carolinas. Despite generally being well liked for their work to improve economic opportunity in Charlotte and around North Carolina, the group manages a donor-advised fund that has funneled money to FAIR, CIS, and NumbersUSA. Between 2006 and 2018, the foundation gave nearly $21 million in donor-advised gifts to at least nine anti-immigrant organizations, 85 percent of which went to Tanton-linked organizations.32

Anti-immigrant groups cloaking themselves in environmentalism to push a xenophobic agenda is not new.33 While their scientifically meritless arguments are no longer welcome within the mainstream environmental movement, they continue to fuel the vitriol—and bad policy decisions, including draconian cuts to immigration levels, the evisceration of the U.S. refugee asylum systems, and the separation of families at the border—that hurt legitimate, effective solutions to the conservation and climate crisis.34

Racist rhetoric undermines the conservation movement

This small but organized and well-funded fringe of anti-immigration activists has produced arguments that range from openly bigoted and racist stereotypes to the more insidious and purportedly science-based claims about population that resonate with Eurocentric environmentalism of the 20th century. It bears repeating: These claims do not have the support of the scientific community, and the little research that has been conducted in this area resoundingly refutes them.35 In fact, the vast majority of behavioral studies demonstrate that immigrants live more environmentally sustainable lifestyles than native-born Americans, so much so that immigrant density is associated with lower carbon emissions.36

Population-based arguments against immigration, meanwhile, are built on a series of flawed assumptions. The first is that the environmental health of the United States exists in isolation from the rest of the world, which has never been more untrue than in 2020, as the country grapples with climate change, the collapse of transnational migratory species, and a coronavirus pandemic born out of nature destruction and overexploitation of wildlife in another continent.37 The second is that it allows the interests driving the real problem—overconsumption and unregulated development—off the hook.38 For example, corporate interests such as the oil and gas industry have undue influence on U.S. policy.39 Per capita, the United States has a greater rate of climate emissions, air pollution, and nature destruction than most other countries and is an outlier even among countries with similar standards of living.40 Policies aimed at limiting corporate capture and protecting public health—not curtailing immigration—are the solutions to these problems.

Polls show that communities of color—to which most immigrants and second-generation Americans belong—are the most concerned about this destruction and the likeliest to support policies that would protect the environment.41 For example, polls show high Latino support for conserving water, reducing air pollution, and protecting wildlife.42 This comes as no surprise given that communities of color—especially those that are also low-income—are more likely to suffer the consequences of unplanned urban sprawl, oil and gas drilling, deforestation, and pollution.43 Studies show that white people contribute disproportionately to the problem of air pollution, while Black and Latino people are the likeliest to bear the burden of air pollution where they live.44 Immigrants, who contribute less to pollution on average than native-born Americans, are still disproportionately likely to suffer the consequences of toxic pollution from industrial polluters.45 In this context, genuine environmentalism cannot exclude or antagonize immigrants and second-generation Americans, who form a core constituency of the conservation movement.

Instead, this vitriol could actively harm the conservation movement by alienating and erasing both potential and existing allies, members, and leaders who are from immigrant backgrounds.46 For example, immigrant leaders were central to the labor-driven movement to ban the use of toxic DDT pesticides in the 20th century.47 More recently, Asian immigrants in the fishing industry faced the worst consequences of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill and participated heavily in cleanup efforts.48 At the local level, immigrants are at the forefront of a range of environmental justice and conservation efforts, even as they remain underrepresented at the tables of national organizations and government agencies.49 Moreover, the racist rhetoric that runs throughout the anti-immigration fringe could undermine the United States’ ability to cooperate across borders with countries that will be key allies in fighting climate change, conserving biodiversity, and, ultimately, fighting the ecological degradation and disasters that often force people to flee their home countries to begin with.50

One of the most dramatic examples of how greenwashed nativism can harm the planet is the Trump administration’s U.S.-Mexico border wall. Its construction was not only regarded as ineffective and wasteful but has also caused immense damage to the environment, including by blasting mountains, destroying ancient cactus, desecrating sacred sites of the Tohono O’odham Nation, and disrupting the migration routes and survival of nearly 100 already imperiled species ranging from jaguars to monarch butterflies.51 Notably, the Trump administration’s extensive use of waivers to circumvent environmental standards and regulations allowed the federal government to destroy these lands with impunity in the name of immigration control.52

Focusing, instead, on the root causes of human displacement and migration—including those rooted in nature destruction and climate change—and increasing well-designed legal channels for people to seek entry to the United States would help U.S. immigration policy become more humane, more effective, and more environmentally sustainable.53 Moreover, the Biden administration has an opportunity to focus on repairing the cruel and counterproductive mistakes of the Trump era to establish a working legal immigration system, asylum process, and pathway to citizenship—all of which will benefit the U.S. environmental movement.54

Conclusion 

Anti-immigrant sentiments were a staple of mainstream Eurocentric conservation in the 19th and 20th centuries—but so were eugenics, unscientific species exterminations, and the purposeful usurpation of land from Indigenous tribes who often stewarded natural resources more effectively than the managers who followed. As an examination of funding sources and policy positions have found, the extremist groups now hawking misleading and easily debunked green-hate arguments are not acting in good faith.

Twenty-first century environmentalism is, by necessity, a multiracial, multigenerational, international, and anti-elitist movement whose diversity only makes it stronger. It is built of, by, and for all people—and immigrant-dense communities are its base.55 If the evidence of bad actors funding green hate, the mounting scientific data, and 650 miles of border wall devastation are not evidence enough, this fact alone should make clear that these arguments do not belong in the modern environmental movement.

Jenny Rowland-Shea is a senior policy analyst for Public Lands at the Center for American Progress. Sahir Doshi is research assistant for Public Lands at the Center.

Source: The Extremist Campaign to Blame Immigrants for US Environmental Problems

How Executive Action Can Build a More Fair, Humane, and Workable Immigration System

From the Democrat think tank, the Center for American Progress, a likely indicator of what to expect from the Biden administration:

Over the past four years, the Trump administration wreaked havoc on the nation’s immigration and humanitarian protection systems, all without enacting a single law—and often in violation of existing laws. Building on a set of laws that were already outdated, overly inflexible, and poorly suited to meet the country’s realistic wants and needs, the administration made full use of the significant amount of executive authority that Congress has both explicitly and implicitly delegated to the president over many decades. As many commentators observed when looking at the administration’s relentless anti-immigrant agenda, cruelty was often the point. Now, the incoming Biden administration—which recognized early on that “we are living through a battle for the soul of this nation” and centered its presidential campaign around a pledge to “restore the soul of America”—will need to similarly use executive authority to repair much of the damage done over the past four years, as well as in previous years. By doing so, it can help build an immigration system that is more fair, humane, and workable.

Given the substantial task at hand and the nature of both the administrative state and administrative law, some of this will take time. But because the stakes are so great for so many—indeed, for the country as a whole and for its future—the work must begin immediately and it must be sustained for the duration of the administration. By the end of his first week in office, President Donald Trump had already issued three separateexecutive orders pertaining to immigration.

During his first days in office, President-elect Joe Biden should issue a single omnibus executive order that 1) lays out a condemnation of the damaged system that he is inheriting, 2) articulates a vision for the direction in which he will take things over the course of his term in office, and 3) makes initial, urgently needed changes consistent with that vision, including the imposition of a 100-day moratorium on deportations while the administration conducts a comprehensive review of outstanding cases and develops a set of sensible enforcement priorities.

What the first executive order on immigration should include

The executive order should begin with a high-level description of the breadth of damage done by the Trump administration, including but not limited to:

Providing a concise but comprehensive condemnation of the damage done by the Trump administration is necessary to convey to the public and to both political appointees and career staff that the Biden administration recognizes the challenge at hand and will waste no time in beginning to build immigration and humanitarian protection systems that are far better than what exists today.

The executive order should then address issues by category, articulating generally what values and objectives should guide the development of policy in each area. Where possible, it should immediately rescind executive orders and policies that run counter to those values and objectives—for example, various entry bans issued pursuant to section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the nationwide expansion of expedited removal, and the so-called asylum cooperative agreements with Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. The order should also task Cabinet secretaries with the responsibility of studying different aspects of the issues within their jurisdiction and reporting back in fixed periods of time with new plans and policies consistent with the administration’s vision.

For example, the secretary of homeland security should be tasked with establishing new civil immigration enforcement guidelines; developing a range of community-based supervision programs to significantly decrease the country’s overreliance on a punitive detention system; conducting an immediate audit of the current detention population to release those at heightened risk of developing serious health consequences if they were to contract the coronavirus, as well as vulnerable populations and others for whom detention is not strictly necessary; establishing a protocol to promote cooperative enforcement strategies designed to enhance compliance with U.S. immigration laws; and reviewing extant agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies, including all forms of 287(g) agreements, to begin the process of phasing them out entirely.

Similarly, the attorney general should be directed to take steps to significantly reduce the immigration court backlog by removing low-priority cases from the docket and to review immigration decisions issued by prior attorneys general and the Board of Immigration Appeals to identify cases ripe for certification and prompt reissuance to correct inconsistencies with law. In addition, the secretaries of state and health and human services should be ordered to engage stakeholders and review policies and procedures to ensure that a rebuilt U.S. Refugee Admissions Program is more resilient. The secretaries of homeland security and state, meanwhile, should develop a plan to restore an orderly and efficient asylum system that lives up to our highest ideals, including by dismantling the “Remain in Mexico” program.

While this bureaucratic process takes place and the administration studies each of these issues and designs appropriate solutions or harm-mitigation plans, it should issue a moratorium on deportations and associated detentions and arrests for a 100-day period, ensuring that enforcement actions going forward follow sensible enforcement priorities and are aligned with the new administration’s vision and values and not those of its predecessor.

Congressional engagement and steady policy rollouts in furtherance of the administration’s vision

During this time, the administration should work closely with the new Congress to use all necessary legislative tools to enact legislation without delay. This should include permanent protections for Dreamers and TPS holders—such as those covered by the American Dream and Promise Act, H.R. 6, which passed the House in 2019 with bipartisan support—as well as undocumented farm workers, who would have received protection under the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, H.R. 5038, which also passed the House in 2019 with even greater bipartisan support. Both of these bills ultimately died in the Senate under Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) leadership, but they should be high priorities for the new-look 117th Congress. In addition, as the Biden administration and Congress work to enact a long overdue national coronavirus relief and recovery package that rises to the significant challenges facing the country today, they should ensure that undocumented essential workers and their families—who continue to play an important role in the nation’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic and will play a similarly critical role in the country’s efforts to rebuild—are placed on a path to citizenship.

Of course, necessary policy changes should be announced when they are ready. For instance, the administration should, without delay, begin the process of identifying and reuniting in the United States parents and children separated under the Trump administration’s family separation policy. Additionally, as part of a broader strategy of constructive reengagement with Central America, the secretary of homeland security should issue new TPS designations for El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua on account of the two unprecedented hurricanes that devastated those countries in November and exacerbated their ongoing public health and food insecurity crises.

At the conclusion of this 100-day period, the administration should be prepared to issue new policies governing future civil immigration enforcement practices. At this time, in the event that Congress does not act, the administration should also take strong executive action consistent with its ample authority under law—for instance, by granting “significant public benefitparole in place to individuals who perform work that Trump’s Department of Homeland Security deemed essential to the critical infrastructure of the country as well as to their spouses and minor children.

Conclusion

The executive actions described above—and even the tailored legalization bills—would not eliminate the need for the significant legislative reforms required to create an immigration system that is more fair, humane, and workable and that restores faith in the rule of law. Core features of such a system would include a generous and well-functioning legal immigration system responsive to the nation’s changing needs; an asylum and refugee system that guarantees humane and efficient processing without sacrificing fairness; a new paradigm for enforcement committed to proportionality, accountability, and due process; and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and others who have long resided in this country. There must also be legal mechanisms, such as a rolling registry date, designed to prevent a recurrence of the current problem.

Collectively, these structural reforms will create an immigration system that lives up to the country’s best values, meets its realistic wants and needs, and is both capable of being followed and deserving of being enforced in a fair and just way. But the fact that legislative reforms are undeniably needed does not obviate the need or the justification for steady and aggressive use of executive authority permitted under law. In fact, the decades of legislative paralysis—and the national nightmare from which we will soon emerge—ultimately demand it.

Source: How Executive Action Can Build a More Fair, Humane, and Workable Immigration System

Trump’s New ‘Birth Tourism’ Policy Is A Way To Control Women

More negative commentary, particularly around the subjectiveness of determinations:

On Friday, a new policy to stop pregnant women from traveling to the U.S. for “birth tourism” will go into effect. Consular officers can now deny visitor visas to women who they have “reason to believe” will give birth in America in order to get their child U.S. citizenship.

The policy is already controversial because it gives officers, who are not medical experts, broad discretion to determine whether or not someone is pregnant. If an officer thinks a woman is likely to have a baby in the U.S., they can automatically conclude that a person’s “primary purpose” for travel is birth tourism, and prevent them from entering the country.

Women’s health advocates and experts said the rule is a blatant attempt to control women and that it could prevent expecting mothers from receiving life-saving medical care.

“It’s hugely discriminatory and also is putting women’s lives at risk,” said Nora Ellmann, a research associate for women’s health and rights at the Center for American Progress. “The rule is positioning pregnant women as a national security threat.”

The Trump administration has a history of stomping on reproductive rights, especially regarding women of color. While Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) largely stopped detaining pregnant women under a President Barack Obama directive, Trump reversed that order and the number of expecting mothers in detention has jumped by 52% since he took office. Scott Lloyd, the former director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), blocked pregnant immigrant teenagers in ORR custody from getting abortions, and allegedly tracked their menstrual cycles. And Trump has talked about using an executive order to end birthright citizenship, to stop immigrants from having what he calls “anchor babies.”

The rule is positioning pregnant women as a national security threat.Nora Ellmann, research associate for women’s health and rights at the Center for American Progress

The topic of “birth tourism” recently made headlines after a woman traveling from Hong Kong to Saipan, a United States territory in the Pacific, was forced to take a pregnancy test before boarding the flight. She had to sign a medical release form that said she had “a body size/shape resembling to a [sic] pregnant lady,” according to a blog post the woman wrote. Though there are no credible statistics on how widespread birth tourism is, media coverage usually focuses on women from China and Russia.

The new policy does not apply to the 39 countries whose citizens can travel to the U.S. without a visa — like France, Ireland and New Zealand — and it’s unclear how it will work for foreign travelers from other countries.

In an email to HuffPost, a State Department spokesperson said officers would only raise the topic of pregnancy if “they had a specific articulable reason to believe a visa applicant may be pregnant and planning to give birth in the United States.” The spokesperson did not answer HuffPost’s question about how an officer would determine whether or not someone is pregnant, how far along they are, and if a medical professional would be involved in a screening.

Women’s health advocates worry the dystopian process will involve an officer behind a glass window sizing up a woman’s body, which could result in discrimination based on gender, age and size.

“It’s clearly a huge violation of a woman’s privacy and dignity,” said Sung Yeon Choimorrow, the executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. “There is so much room for subjectiveness in this. What types of questions are you going to ask? The whole thing is just so absurd.”

The rule also makes the false assumption that pregnant women only travel to give birth in another country, when they might be going overseas for business or vacation, Choimorrow added.

Even more concerning is that an officer with no medical background now has the power to decide if someone is pregnant and if they deserve medical treatment in the U.S., said Dr. Carolyn Sufrin, an obstetrician-gynecologist who teaches at Johns Hopkins University. “It’s just completely outside of the realm of what they can and should be doing.”

Though the rule specifies that pregnant women seeking medical treatment in the U.S. can be granted visas if they have the means to pay for their medical bills, the policy also states that pregnant women have to prove, “to the satisfaction of a consular officer,” that they have a “legitimate reason” for seeing an American doctor. This phrasing leaves serious, potentially life-saving decisions up to people with no medical background, according to Ellmann.

“They may say, ‘Well, we don’t think that’s a sufficient basis, because you can get the treatment, which may or may not be that good, right outside of the United States,’” said Jeffrey Gorsky, a lawyer who worked in the State Department’s visa office for 36 years.

Dr. Sufrin said that even if the State Department does plan to involve medical professionals, it would be highly unethical for any doctor to be involved in a process that denies medical care to someone based on factors such as their nationality, citizenship status, or for any other reason.

Gorsky said the rule seems extremely hard to implement, especially given the fact that women interested in “birth tourism” can apply for long-term travel visas years before they are pregnant. He thinks the new policy is more symbolic than practical ― a muscle flex for Trump’s anti-immigration base.

“I think the political motivations are what’s driving this,” he said. “This administration does not have a record of caring for the needs of people who are not U.S. citizens.”

Source: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/trump-birth-tourism-policy-women_n_5e2b407bc5b67d8874b16ccf

Migration Flows in Mexico Have Challenged the Country’s Immigration Policies

Interesting overview of some of their challenges:

Mexico is facing new challenges as millions  of Mexican migrants return from the United States and Central Americans seek asylum and safe passage through the country. Historically, Mexico has been a predominantly immigrant-sending country. Political unrest and violence in Central America, heavy-handed immigration enforcement in the United States, and increased development in Mexico has made Mexico a country of destination, return, and transit. Each of these roles demands a unique, humane, and thorough policy response.

Until recently, Mexico has never had a coherent immigration policy. Past laws, such as the 1974 General Law of Population, focused solely on enforcing criminal penalties for immigrants entering or staying in the country without authorization. Throughout the past decade, however, several reforms to laws and policies have expanded the scope of Mexico’s immigration policy to reflect the realities of the country’s diversifying population. Yet while legislative changes to immigration and asylum laws have been implemented to expand services and protections for immigrants, they have not been sufficient to address the needs of return migrants and Central American asylum-seekers and have revealed large gaps in Mexico’s immigration policies and practices.

Mexico’s response to return migration is falling short

The Mexican government has made efforts to ease the transition of returnees through the creation of several programs and initiatives aimed toward reintegration. For example, the Somos Mexicanos initiative, which the National Institute of Immigration (INM) implemented in 2014, aims to facilitate the reintegration of Mexican nationals, providing them with food, medical attention, toll-free calling, free transportation, and employment assistance upon initial return. While such existing programs and initiatives are a step in the right direction, they have done little to ease the transition of many returnees, who continue to struggle with emotional trauma and lack access to employment, educational opportunities, and the long-term support they need to navigate life in Mexico.

With the government falling short, nonprofits have instead shouldered the responsibility of facilitating successful reintegration by directly working with returnees, providing them with long-term support, and serving as valuable networks. Certain organizations—such as Otros Dreams en Acción, New Comienzos, El Instituto para las Mujeres en la Migración, and Dream in México—offer free programs that assist returnees in pursuing educational opportunities, searching for jobs, accessing mental health services, securing emergency shelters, obtaining identification documents, and enrolling in mentoring programs. Yet while nonprofits have worked to fill the gaps that exist between the services that government-run programs offer, Mexico is still struggling to keep up with returnees. Moreover, if the Trump administration is allowed to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, stripping immigration status from approximately 700,000 current DACA recipients—nearly 80 percent of whom are from Mexico—the forcible or voluntary return of these long-term U.S. residents to Mexico would overtax the country’s already strained social services.

Central American migration poses another challenge for Mexico

Since early 2018, Mexico has responded to the increased number of Central American migrants with force. In response to pressure from the United States, Mexico has heightened security efforts along its southern border and has detained and deported thousands of Central American migrants. According to Mexico’s National Institute of Migration (INM), 80,000 Central American migrants were deported from January 2018 through September 2018. In 2017, due to worsening conditions and violence in the Northern Triangle region, which includes Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, 14,596people applied for asylum in Mexico—a 66 percent increase from 2016. Despite this increase, only 1,907 requests were approved in 2017. This surge in asylum claims has placed a strain on the severely understaffed and underfunded Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (COMAR), the department that processes asylum petitions. A 2016 study documented the difficulties Central American migrants face when seeking asylum in Mexico, including due process violations; obstacles in gaining access to asylum procedures; lack of information about their rights at migration stations; and lack of legal representation during the petition process.

With the arrival of the most recent Honduran caravan, however, Mexico’s response to Central American migration has begun to shift slightly. On October 26, former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto announced a plan called “Estás en tu casa,” or “You are home,” to facilitate the asylum process for those in the caravan. The program will grant migrants official documentation, temporary work permits, medical attention, and access to education for children if they return and file with the INM in Mexico’s southern states, Oaxaca and Chiapas. According to the Mexican Office for Domestic Affairs, more than 3,800 migrants have applied for refugee status, nearly 136 Honduran migrants per dayhave requested assistance to return, and thousands more have chosen to continue toward the United States due to concerns over long wait times and mistrust of Mexican authorities. Asylum-seekers in Tijuana now face extreme backlogs as U.S. Border Patrol only processes 40 to 100 asylum claims a day. As tensions and uncertainty in Tijuana continue to rise, Mexico has increased its efforts in response to a situation that remains both complex and ever-changing.

There is opportunity for meaningful change

While Mexico has taken substantive steps to improve its immigration system, it should continue to partner with both the United States and international organizations such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in order to strengthen its capacity to effectively address surmounting immigration challenges and overhaul the bureaucratic process that continues to make it difficult for returnees to enroll in school, seek employment, and access social services. Mexico would also benefit from collaborating with nonprofit organizations on the ground so that it can better understand the needs of return migrants. Meanwhile, organizations such as COMAR should receive additional resources so that they can efficiently and fairly process and provide refuge to those seeking asylum. Finally, Mexico should work to demilitarize its southern border and build bridges with Central American countries in an effort to encourage meaningful change in the region.

The election of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a left-populist candidate of the National Regeneration Movement, may also catalyze a change in the way Mexico approaches migration. President López Obrador has been vocal in his critique of Mexico’s security policies, anti-immigration efforts on Mexico’s southern border, and the United States’ involvement in shaping Mexico’s immigration policy. He recently urged the United States, Canada, and Mexico to jointly address the migration influx by investing in development in Northern Triangle countries, though the focus of his immigration policies remains unclear.

Conclusion

Migrants and returnees who seek opportunities, refuge, and safe passage should be met by policies and programs that support their well-being and promote stability. With looming uncertainties in U.S. immigration programs such as DACA, as well as continued instability in the Northern Triangle region, it is critical that the López Obrador administration makes immigration policy a priority. As the new administration settles into office, it should focus not only on reforming its current immigration policies but also on adopting policies that transform the landscape of immigration toward a more humane and orderly system.

Source: Migration Flows in Mexico Have Challenged the Country’s Immigration Policies