The Environmental Case for a Path to Citizenship

FILE - In this Dec. 16, 2009 file photo, steam and smoke rise from a coal burning power plant in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. A Un
FILE - In this Dec. 16, 2009 file photo, steam and smoke rise from a coal burning power plant in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. A United Nations report on rising greenhouse gas emissions reminded world governments Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012 that their efforts to fight climate change are far from enough to meet their stated goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees C (3.6 F). (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)

Greenpeace knows that the best way to fight corporate polluters is through collective action. From stopping dangerous coal plant pollution to cleaning up toxic spills, the only way to keep our communities and our children healthy is by speaking out in a big way. But if people are afraid to speak out, they lose one of their basic human rights. The United States' current immigration policy forces vulnerable communities to keep silent about corporate pollution for fear of having their lives and families torn apart.

Greenpeace believes everyone is born with equal rights. As Americans, we believe all people should be treated fairly, no matter the color of their skin or the country of a their birth. This means that everyone has an equal right to protection from corporate polluters, and that no one should be forced into a vulnerable shadow class simply because of paperwork. These are the standards of our founders, and to meet these standards, we have a moral imperative to modernize and humanize our immigration policies so all Americans have equal protection from polluters under the law.

Undocumented workers are among the most vulnerable workers in our society, from their exposure to toxic pesticides and chemicals in agricultural work and manufacturing, to their isolation in pollution-choked neighborhoods caring for vulnerable families and children. Every human being deserves the dignity and right to stand up to polluters in the workplace and at home without fear of being deported and taken from their families. Without a path to citizenship, undocumented immigrants are left at the mercy of corporate polluters.

Every society is judged by how well it embodies its highest aspirations and how it treats its most vulnerable people. It's not who we are as a society to create a separate class of people and force them to risk exposure to dangerous pollution or toxic pesticides simply because our immigration policies lag behind reality.

Some companies and advocates support forms of legalization that would provide for temporary legal status without any voting or basic workplace rights, such as guestworker programs. But workers must have a way to protect their health and safety on the job and hold elected officials accountable when they fail to represent their communities' health and well-being. Only a roadmap to full citizenship will enable all of us, including aspiring Americans, to achieve the safety, sustainability, and dignity that everyone in America deserves.