Immigration Policy as an Environmental Issue

Parsing Immigration Policy, Episode 16

By Mark Krikorian and Julie Axelrod on August 12, 2021

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Listen to "Immigration Policy as an Environmental Issue" on Spreaker.


Congress passed the “Magna Carta” of environmental law, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), more than 50 years ago. NEPA mandates that all federal agencies consider the environmental implications of actions before they are undertaken; the environmental impact statements are then required to be made public, so that individuals have the opportunity to comment on government actions that will affect their communities. The law begins with a "Congressional Declaration of National Environmental Policy" which identifies the impact of population growth as one of the law's chief concerns. Despite this, no environmental analysis has been performed on any immigration action in the decades since NEPA's passage, even though the federal government's main influence on U.S. population numbers comes through its immigration policies.

Julie Axelrod, the director of litigation for the Center for Immigration Studies, pioneered using NEPA to sue government agencies for not conducting environmental analysis on immigration actions. On this week’s episode of Parsing Immigration Policy, Axelrod discusses the NEPA lawsuits filed against the Department of Homeland Security for ignoring immigration actions in its NEPA procedures.

Axelrod said, “Congress did not exempt immigration actions from NEPA obligations. Policies that promote and encourage high levels of legal and illegal immigration impact the environment and impose costs on the public. NEPA analysis is required by law for a reason – it enables agencies to make decisions based on valid environment impact analysis and gives the public a chance to voice their opinions. NEPA lawsuits provide a much-needed check on the administrative state.”

In this week’s closing commentary, Mark Krikorian, the Center’s executive director and host of Parsing Immigration Policy, discusses a failed E-Verify amendment to the trillion-dollar infrastructure bill passed in the Senate this week. The amendment would have ensured infrastructure bill jobs would have gone to American workers by prohibiting federal funding for any entity that failed to enroll in E-Verify.

Related Reports

50th Anniversary of NEPA: Five Decades of Ignoring the Environmental Impacts of Immigration

Arizona Uses NEPA to Fight Biden's Poorly Thought-Out Immigration Policies

Council on Environmental Quality Holds Public Hearing on the National Environmental Policy Act

Whitewater Draw Natural Resource Conservation District v. DHS


53 Senators Vote to Ensure Infrastructure Bill Jobs Go to American Workers: But that won’t happen, because 45 Democratic senators opposed mandating E-Verify for the bill’s beneficiaries


Mark Krikorian is the Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies.


Julie Axelrod is the director of litigation for the Center for Immigration Studies.


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Intro Montage

Voices in the opening montage:

  • Sen. Barack Obama at a 2005 press conference.
  • Sen. John McCain in a 2010 election ad.
  • President Lyndon Johnson, upon signing the 1965 Immigration Act.
  • Booker T. Washington, reading in 1908 from his 1895 Atlanta Exposition speech.
  • Laraine Newman as a "Conehead" on SNL in 1977.
  • Hillary Clinton in a 2003 radio interview.
  • Cesar Chavez in a 1974 interview.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaking to reporters in 2019.
  • Prof. George Borjas in a 2016 C-SPAN appearance.
  • Sen. Jeff Sessions in 2008 comments on the Senate floor.
  • Charlton Heston in "Planet of the Apes".