During the 1980s, some Sierra Club members, including Paul Ehrlich's wife Anne, wanted to take the Club into the contentious field of immigration to the United States. The Club's position was that overpopulation was a significant factor in the degradation of the environment. Accordingly, the Club supported stabilizing and reducing U.S. and world population. Some members argued that, as a practical matter, U.S. population could not be stabilized, let alone reduced, at the then-current levels of immigration. They urged the Club to support immigration reduction. The Club had previously addressed the issue of "mass immigration," and in 1988, the organization's Population Committee and Conservation Coordinating Committee stated that immigration to the U.S. should be limited, so as to achieve population stabilization.
From all the other things that have gone wrong with this country, you'd bet that they flip-flopped during the early or mid-1990s.
Other Sierrans thought that the immigration issue was too far from the Club's core environmentalist mission, and were also concerned that involvement would impair the organization's political ability to pursue its other objectives. In 1996, the Board of Directors accepted this latter view, and voted that the Sierra Club would be neutral on issues of immigration.
As recently as 1994, according to the General Social Survey, whites who said their political views were liberal or extremely liberal overwhelmingly believed that illegal immigrants should not be able to get work permits (79% against). Although a majority approved of our anchor baby policy, a solid 41% were against. Forget illegals -- what about immigration in general? By a narrow majority (53%), liberals favored decreasing immigration -- without any qualifiers about "illegal," "undocumented," etc. Decrease it overall. Furthermore, most of the rest thought it should only stay the same, with a pathetic 5% saying it should be increased.
We know where they stand now, but it's important to emphasize how recent their shift has been. Otherwise we'll feel doomed, like it's part of some ancient liberal push for more immigration, ever growing in strength, and it's only a matter of when to abandon ship. If liberals were anti-immigration in the first half of the '90s, and the friggin' Sierra Club took a restrictionist position in the '80s, then we're not up against some kind of primeval unstoppable juggernaut.
And remember to keep the middle and long term in perspective. Even if the government acts to ramp up immigration, that doesn't mean it'll keep on that way. It reached a breaking point around 1920, and was abruptly cut off. We seem to be heading for another breaking point around 2020, so there's no reason to expect things to keep heading the way they have been for the rest of our lives.
GSS variables: undockid, undocwrk, letin, race, polviews, year