Article didn't cover the real immigration issues

  Dear HCN,

I have been an avid reader of High Country News for several years and have enjoyed its insightful take on the issues shaping the West as we head into the 21st century. I am, however, deeply disturbed by your recent coverage of the Sierra Club ballot question, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses' (HCN, 5/11/98). It seems as though the author, a former intern and reporter at HCN, ignored the central tenet of journalism: get the facts right. It also appears as though no one bothered to double-check on her reporting.

Specifically: I am not and have never been a director of FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, and therefore have no responsibility or voice in its activities. I am a member of FAIR's advisory council, which is purely honorary and puts me in the company of other environmentalists like Dick Lamm, Gene McCarthy, Paul Ehrlich, and John V. Lindsay. FAIR, while supporting immigration reform, does not advocate eugenics or race-based population control.

I was never an officer at the Sierra Club. I served on the board of the Sierra Club Foundation, a separate and distinct organization, for many years. I, personally, did not "funnel more than $100,000" to the pro-A campaign. My brothers and I asked the Sierra Club Foundation to release $85,000 to the Sierra Club from a Weeden endowment set up years ago by our father, to fund an even-handed mailing to all Sierra Club members wherein each side of the issue presented lengthy arguments in support of its views. We did this because without such a mailing no educational material would have been sent to Sierra Club members by the club. In that event members would have heard the arguments only through the media, which in view of the environmental importance of the issue, we felt was inadequate.

Other errors are as follows: Ric Oberlink did not resign as executive director of Californians For Population Stabilization to run the Sierrans for U.S. Population Stabilization (SUSPS) campaign; his resignation took place many months before SUSPS even started; a disproportionate share of the signatures SUSPS collected to qualify its ballot question came from California in part because a disproportionate share of Sierra Club members come from California; the SUSPS petition did not call for "tightly controlled borders," which the U.S. already has, but only for the Sierra Club to support a national population policy that offered a realistic chance of stabilizing the U.S. population, something that cannot be done without addressing the relatively high levels of immigration today.

Supporters of Alternative A also support everything offered in Alternative B, including "working on the root causes of global population explosion, including access to birth control, economic security, and equity for women" (in fact, the club's Inspector of Elections described the choice offered voters as completely nonsensical and perhaps a violation of club bylaws).

The Sierra Club's paid leadership appears to have a history of manipulating ballot questions to achieve results to their satisfaction: in 1994, the ballot question relating to ending commercial logging on public forests - not supported by the club leadership - was worded so that a "yes' vote actually meant opposition to the proposal. The membership "rejected" the ban; two years later, with much clearer wording, the "zero cut" policy won by a two-to-one margin.

The article takes it as fact that socially and politically motivated (read "racist') proponents of immigration reform have recently targeted environmentalists when there is substantial information demonstrating just the opposite - a growing cadre of concerned environmentalists understanding the global, as well as local, environmental impacts of a demographic trend: population growth in the U.S. significantly fueled by immigration. The article made no attempt to explain why poll after poll shows strong support for immigration reform in minority communities (including a majority of blacks and Hispanics).

The sad thing to me is that your article reflects the way this issue was debated: on its divisiveness, not its merits. The fundamental question was never addressed of whether it is wise for the United States to grow to 400-500 million people in the next 50 years, with all the attendant environmental pressures that would create.

Alan Weeden

Los Angeles, California

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