The border region would be just the first among many communities that would suffer environmental damage from this deal. By giving legal status to most of the 12 million undocumented workers in the country, the deal sends a clear message to people thinking about coming to the United States: Enter illegally and you’ll eventually be allowed to stay.
That’s likely to produce another flood of immigration from countries in Latin America and Asia with relatively low consumption levels. But when those immigrants and their descendants move to the United States, their lifestyles (and especially those of their children) often change, and their greenhouse-gas emissions skyrocket. Many start driving huge SUV's and living in big American houses in the suburbs, with air conditioning blasting.
Of course, immigrants aren’t to blame for the environmental harm caused by the American lifestyle. They’re not the ones who created it; they’re just participating in it. Nevertheless, the population surge this bill encourages would be likely to wipe out many of the environmental gains from global warming legislation under consideration by Congress.
The guest-worker provisions of the deal would exacerbate those environmental effects by preventing many immigrants who do come to this country from becoming citizens. While that’s offensive from a human rights perspective, it’s likely to be just as damaging for the environment. Historically, employers have taken advantage of immigrant workers and subjected them to extremely hazardous working conditions that citizens wouldn’t tolerate.
I think the point that illegal immigration perpetuates environmentally negative practices in the US is a very good one. The whole practice of high centralization of economic and political power is, I think, environmentally dangerous—and both legal and illegal immigration tend to perpetuate centralization of political and economic power in both the US and Latin America. Economic nationalism and trade unionism have potentially negative side effects. However, it is extremely dangerous to dismantle these practices before a structure is in place that clearly assures decentralization of political and economic power.