Year of Award


Document Type

Professional Paper

Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Environmental Studies

Other Degree Name/Area of Focus

International Development Studies

Department or School/College

Environmental Studies

Committee Chair

Daniel Spencer

Commitee Members

Robin Saha Paul Haber


environment, immigration, environmental racism, Mexico


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Environmental Studies | Political Science | Social Justice


In recent years, more attention has been paid to the immigration crisis at the US-Mexico border thanks in part to the strict immigration restrictions from the Trump administration, such as the family separation policy. Immigration remains a widely misunderstood issue and arguments against increased immigration are often laced with racist stereotypes and perceptions that find their roots in centuries of US policy, court cases, and administrative rules. Similarly, the concept of environmental racism can be difficult for the American public to understand when modern-day racism alone has become more insidious. Intersectionality, a concept coined by sociologist Kimberlé Crenshaw, asks us to examine society and consider the different layers of marginalization that make our lived experiences different from one another, such as sex, race, gender, country of origin, class, sexual identity, disability, and others. The field of environmental racism examines the role of racist policies, practices, and procedures that result in disproportionate levels of environmental harm to individuals and communities of color, as well as result in the exclusion of people of color from environmental goods and services. Rarely have the fields of environmental racism and immigration been examined together, which this paper seeks to accomplish. It is important to understand the history of immigration policies and the role of racism in developing these policies, the humanitarian issues raised in detention facilities along the US-Mexico border, and then to examine these systems and identify where harms under the lens of environmental injustice are taking place. This paper investigates the connections between immigration injustices and environmental injustices at the US-Mexico border under the pretense of social justice arguments, which generally aim for diversity, equity, inclusion, participation, access to resources, and human rights.



© Copyright 2022 Emma H. Kiefer