Immigration reform supporters have a new ally — the environmental lobby. The Sierra Club’s board voted Wednesday to support comprehensive immigration reform, POLITICO has learned. The backing from the nation’s oldest environmental group is a major shift that could help immigration reform supporters gain momentum as they try to push the measure through the Senate. It is another sign that some of the historical opponents to overhauling the country’s immigration laws, like evangelicals, are switching sides in this controversial debate.
The powerful grass-roots group’s decision is expected to have an emphasis on keeping families together and frames the debate from the standpoint that undocumented workers are the most adversely affected by pollution, a source familiar with the Sierra Club plans confirmed.
The source added that the endorsement is expected to be made public Thursday morning.
A spokeswoman for the group did not respond immediately for an email request for comment.
The decision is a major shift for the group, which has a storied past over the issue.
Sierra Club leaders in the mid-2000s fought off an insurgent effort trying to have the club take an explicitly anti-immigration stance, with some members claiming it was needed to overcome the effects of more people living more consumptive American life styles. The effort fell apart after a pitched battle.
Other environmental groups have historically helped financially support immigration reform opponents like Numbers USA and Federation for American Immigration Reform.
Michael Brune, the club’s executive director, has taken the 121-year-old environmental group in new directions on other fronts too. Brune, who built his own insurgent reputation atop the Rainforest Action Network, got arrested during a Keystone XL pipeline protest outside the White House in February alongside actress Daryl Hannah, environmental lawyer Robert Kennedy Jr., and civil rights leader Julian Bond. The arrest came after the Sierra Club had suspended a decades-long policy against club-sanctioned civil disobedience.