Tree-huggers and immigration

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Can you be progressively pro-environment and against unfettered (or shall we say, lightly fettered) immigration at the same time? Sure, although most media portrayals of the conflagration over immigration would indicate otherwise.

On the left, we have columnist Michael Kinsley describing how "CNN's Lou Dobbs–formerly a mild-mannered news anchor noted for his palsy-walsy interviews with corporate CEOs–has turned into a raving populist xenophobe" using a level of venomous hyperbole usually reserved for a Bill O'Reilly–Al Franken duke-out. On the right, conservative columnist Michelle Malkin writes, "Few things make liberals more uncomfortable than being confronted with the racism of politically correct minorities. Militant racism from a protected minority was on full display last week. But you wouldn't know it from press accounts that whitewashed or buried the protesters' virulent anti-American hatred."

From an environmental perspective, there is ample reason to oppose both legal and illegal immigration at today's levels. Suburban sprawl is chewing up open space on the East and West coasts, in the Midwest and the South, at an unprecedented pace. Public schools are stuffed to sardine-can densities, commutes are lengthening, police and fire departments are underfunded and overwhelmed by demand for services.

What's increasing demand? A crescendoing population.

The typical progressive retort, when I posit such a notion, goes something like, "Sprawl has little to do with immigration and could be cured by smart-growth development." If this were Utopia, that ideology would have a point. In today's America, there's clearly no will to impose smart growth. Or if there is, the moneyed fist of commerce (to wit, developers) knocks it unconscious.

More than a decade ago, I served as a volunteer board member for the nonprofit group Zero Population Growth. I was told back then that the term "overpopulation" was no longer politically correct and that I should instead refer to "population growth." A quick visit to the group's Web site reveals the group has since changed its name to Population Connection. Ah, the lengths to which progressives will go to avoid taking a stand.

As the proud granddaughter of eastern European and Cuban immigrants, with a family that's one-quarter Hispanic, I'm here to say you can consider yourself an environmental progressive as well as an opponent of today's immigration policies simultaneously. In fact, I'd argue there are a lot more of us out there than the media imbroglio over immigration reform permits into view.