THE BLOG
06/30/2016 04:10 pm ET Updated Jul 01, 2017

The SCOTUS Immigration Decision Has Aggravated a Humanitarian & Environmental Crisis

Those four Supreme Court justices showed no mercy on June 23rd by ruling against President Obama's executive orders on immigration and aggravating a national tragedy that impacts millions of people.

Justices John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito upheld a lower court decision blocking the President's initiatives that would have legally protected the undocumented parents of citizens and green-card holders. The remaining four justices ruled against the decision, and the ensuing tie automatically upheld the original ruling.

Today millions of undocumented workers remain in a distressing legal limbo and at the mercy of polluters throughout the country. For we must remember that Spanish-speaking undocumented immigrants remain the demographic most vulnerable to the impact of fossil fuel pollution.

According to a Washington State University study, "economically disadvantaged immigrant neighborhoods of non-English speaking Latinos are more likely to be exposed to cancer-causing air toxics than comparable communities of any other racial group in the United States."

And it adds: "Hazardous air pollutants can cause cancer or other serious reproductive and birth defects. Most originate from automobiles and industrial sources like factories, refineries and power plants."

As they live in the shadows of society in constant fear of being deported, these workers and their families remain mostly unaware of the great dangers of environmental degradation they are exposed to. They have only two basic priorities: never getting caught by immigration authorities and working in whatever job they can get to provide for their families, either here or in their countries of origin.

That's why three years ago, the Sierra Club supported immigration reform with a path to citizenship for these 11 million people.

"The Sierra Club supports a path to citizenship that will empower those in our nation who are among the most vulnerable to toxic pollution and the effects of climate disruption to fully participate in our democracy, fight back against polluters, and demand clean energy solutions," the group's statement said.

In these three years, the need to defend themselves against this daily toxic bombardment has become even more urgent, as scientific evidence shows.

Investigators from Sweden and Great Britain found that fossil fuel pollution --especially nitrogen dioxide-- increases the incidence of mental illnesses in children.

"Children are particularly sensitive to poor air quality probably because their lifestyles increase the dose of air pollution they are exposed too. A lower concentration of air pollution, first and foremost from traffic, may reduce psychiatric disorders in children and adolescents," concluded the study, which examined the pollution exposure of more than 500,000 youth.

The study was conducted in Sweden, a country with low or very low pollution levels. This suggests to investigators that in countries and regions with much higher pollution levels --such as undocumented communities in the US-- the impact on children's mental health could be much worse.

Our immigration system is broken. Undocumented workers are not only subject to a daily toxic bombardment but also to the rage and rejection of a growing anti-immigration movement that demonizes and denigrates them.

Those four Supreme Court Justices, and the entire federal government for that matter, ought to add a good dose of compassion and generosity to the formula that will eventually solve this humanitarian crisis.