If Congress passes immigration reform, much of the credit will be given to the broad and diverse voices that have lined up in support of fixing our nation’s broken immigration system. Both the labor and business community have been instrumental in moving legislation forward, while the evangelical community’s call to “welcome the stranger” has received significant attention by politicians and the media. The coalition of supporters continues to grow, as last week the Sierra Club, the oldest environmental organization in the country, announced its support for immigration reform.
Why would an environmental organization get involved with immigration reform? What could they possibly have at stake?
A lot. According to their statement, the current American immigration system:
“forces approximately 11 million people to live outside the prevailing currents of our society. Many of them work in the fields, mop floors, care for other people's children, and take low-wage jobs to support their families. Many work in jobs that expose them to dangerous conditions, chemicals and pesticides, and many more live in areas with disproportionate levels of toxic air and water pollution.”
They also recognize that passing immigration reform will have a significant impact on efforts to curb the effects of climate change by helping potential advocates become full participants in American society. As Allison Chin, the Sierra Club’s president wrote in the statement, “We must ensure that the people who are the most disenfranchised and the most affected by pollution have the voice to fight polluters and advocate for climate solutions without fear.”
Undoubtedly, the growing momentum for immigration reform will invite a backlash from those struggling against the tidal wave of support. Before those voices can take over the debate, let’s show our appreciation to groups willing to publicly endorse immigration reform. You can show your support by sending a tweet to the Sierra Club (@sierraclub) or posting a thank you note on their Facebook page. The Sierra Club’s announcement is an important reminder of the many ways that public policy issues relate. We can’t forget we’re all in this together.
Ivone Guillen is Immigration Campaigns and Communications Associate for Sojourners. Beau Underwood is Campaigns Manager for Sojourners.