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About the Immigration Environmental Impact Statement Project

In recent decades, American environmentalists have debated whether or not to weigh in on U.S. immigration policies. Key questions in deciding whether to do so include:

  • What roles do immigration and population growth actually play in driving the problems environmentalists want to solve?
  • Can we solve these problems without addressing immigration and immigration-driven population growth?
  • What are our actual choices with regard to immigration policy, and how can we choose fairly and wisely among them?

With this Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR) aims to help concerned environmentalists and policy-makers answer these questions.

The National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) requires that any federal program or policy change that generates significant environmental impacts undergo an EIS. Almost since the Act's inception, some environmentalists have argued that this requirement should be applied to U.S. immigration policy. Because immigration has a large impact on the overall size of the U.S. population, and because population numbers can be an important factor in determining a variety of environmental impacts, federal immigration policy would seem to be a likely subject for NEPA review. This landmark statute itself acknowledges the importance of population growth, stating at the outset that Congress recognizes “the profound influences of population growth” on the natural environment (Title I, Section 101a).

To date, however, the relevant government agencies have declined to undertake such a review of immigration policy or population policy more generally. This EIS is an attempt to fill this gap. On October 17, 2016, the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California alleging that the Department of Homeland Security failed to evaluate the environmental impacts of immigration under NEPA.

From 2013 to 2015, investigators analyzed what effects different immigration policies are likely to have on a full range of national and global environmental issues, including sprawl, water and air pollution, habitat and endangered species protection, and greenhouse gas emissions. Nearly half a century after NEPA's enactment, we believe the NEPA framework can help American citizens think through the environmental issues surrounding U.S. immigration and population policy. We hereby solicit public comment on the scope and methodology of this study and invite you to join us in this endeavor. To comment, please see the EIS Scoping Comments section.

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