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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy

IMMIGRANT OF THE DAY: SHAI AGASSI - ENTREPRENUER

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People who knew me in law school might be surprised that I turned out to be an immigration lawyer. Because for a while there I was convinced I wanted to practice environmental law. I was heavily involved in environmental activism while in law school and helped to found an environmental law society at the University of Chicago Law School. But, alas, while environmental law in law school was interesting and the policy issues were exciting, when I actually practiced in the field briefly at the beginning of my career, I found it - well - a little dry. Fortunately, my first immigration case came in right around the same time and that was far more interesting to me.



But I've remained concerned about the environment over the years and was an enthusiastic purchaser of a hybrid car a few years ago when they became available in my area. And I've followed the developments in the auto industry and related public policy when it comes to promoting alternative vehicles and fuel efficiency. With oil costing more than $100 per barrel, reducing dependence is also critical to our economy (not to mention the security implications)

Shay_agassi
So I was quite happy to read this morning's New York Times and see that Israel is planning on becoming the first country in the world to test becoming an electric car nation. The government of that country announced a venture between Renault, Nissan and Project Better Place, a venture owned by Shai Agassi, an American-Israeli entrepreneur, to subsidize the sale of electric cars and provide readily available charging stations throughout the country.



Renault and Nissan will supply the cars. Israel will provide tax incentives to purchasers of the cars and begin construction of facilities to recharge the cars and replace empty batteries quickly. Mr. Agassi's company will supply the batteries which will be able to go 124 miles per charge.



Mr. Agassi hopes to have 100,000 electric cars on the road in Israel within two years. He believes that concentrating on infrastructure to support the cars is more important than concentrating on car production. If the Israel test project is successful, the venturers hope to duplicate the model in small countries like Denmark and in major cities like London, Paris, New York and Singapore.



Congratulations and good luck, Mr. Agassi.

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Comments

  1. Jack's Avatar
    I'm surprised to hear about your environmental background as you struck me as a business primacy type (hope you're not offended) into GDP growth at any cost as opposed to ecological economics. I'm curious if you once had a different view of immigration based on a belief that U.S. population growth is an environmental concern or that perpetual population growth is incompatible with sustainability? I wonder what you consider an optimum U.S. population at which future Americans can meet their needs for many generations to come. Apparently you don't think we're at that point yet but consider that growth of .9% results in a doubling rate of less than 80 years and we are already experiencing biodiversity loss. I'm sure you're aware of the many big name scientists and environmentalists who think we already exceed a sustainable population. I wonder how you reconcile our Sasquatch-size ecological footprint and your liberal views on immigration? Are you a cornucopian or think we can rely solely on impact reduction while simultaeneously causing the population to swell in large part due to our current immigration policy? Coming out of the movement, I hope you don't lump all low immigration advocating conservationists together as 'anti-immigrant'. Sorry for all the questions!

    'reducing dependence is also critical to our economy (not to mention the security implications)'

    I'm glad you're concerned about this and drive a hybrid but increasing our population does the opposite of reducing dependence, doesn't it? When we add population and as a result urbanize farmland to accommodate it we do a double whammy on our per capita arable land. We put more strain on our depletable water supply. Is there anything which relates to the environment, sustainability, species protection, etc. which population growth IMPROVES?
  2. Greg Siskind's Avatar
    I always thought the population argument was silly. Migration is the shifting of populations, not the growth of populations. I've generally felt that those who argue population growth as a justification to stop immigration are trying to make liberals feel less guilty about embracing a bigoted agenda. Sorry, but that's how I see it.
  3. USC's Avatar
    "Migration is the shifting of populations, not the growth of populations."

    Very succinctly put.

    Jack, Greg has brilliantly addressed your argument on population growth as it pertains to immigration. In addition I would point out that obsessing with population growth results in human rights violations such as what China does to its citizens.
  4. Legal and no longer waiting's Avatar
    On top of that, logic suggests that the population that we have now is what it is, not much we can do about it (unless you would like to launch genocide to solve a rather non-existent problem, and I don't think that's a majority opinion). If you worry about future population growth, which is the only thing you can control, then you would WANT people to move to the US, since moving from a developing to a developed country generally reduces birth rates.

    So, if you worry about global overpopulation, you would want more immigration, not less.
  5. Jack's Avatar
    The most basic environmental argument against immigration to the U.S. is that the average American's resource consumption/impact/ecological footprint, etc. is greater than the immigrant would cause in his home country. So it's not just a harm-free shifting or redistribution--the result is a net global increase in environmental impact. Do you favor the rest of the world mimicking U.S.-level consumption? That is what effectively happens one person at a time when someone moves to America and adopts our consumption patterns.

    There is also the theory that liberal immigration policies create a disincentive for overpopulated net sending countries to lower their birth rate if they perceive there will be a place to export their excess population. This applies to government planning, or the lack thereof, and also to individual decision making.

    Population is global issue, but it is also 194 separate national issues. From an individual country standpoint, a net receiving country adds to its impact, while net sending countries lower theirs. Since the U.S. is a net receiving country, immigration impacts our country's environment and that should be considered.

    I think perspectives on this are affected by where one resides. I live in a state which bears the brunt of environmental harm caused by population growth. Maybe it's not as noticeable where Greg currently lives but here is an interesting article of the tension between population fueled development and conservation in his home state. At root of the conflict is that southern Miami-Dade County is projected to add 700,000 new residents.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/11/business/yourmoney/11natreal.html?pagewanted=1&n=Top/News/U.S./U.S.%20States,%20Territories%20and%20Possessions/Florida/Everglades


    'not much we can do about it (unless you would like to launch genocide'

    We can abstain from throwing gasoline on the fire. It is far easier and less heavy-handed to achieve immigration reduction than to achieve fertility reduction, since immigration can be regulated directly by Congress. Policy makers can only indirectly influence fertility rates. The best way to keep government from ever intruding into citizens' personal lives a la the Chinese is prevent the situation from getting to that point.

    Ironically, protecting our environment now (including lower current immigration) might allow us to have higher immigration for generations to come. This is because overpopulation can damage the carrying capacity which will ultimately inhibit how much future immigration we can sustain.
  6. Greg Siskind's Avatar
    Jack - Let's just kill all the first born males. That will surely reduce consumption as well.
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