Congress passed the “Magna Carta” of environmental law, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), more than 50 years ago. NEPA mandates that all federal agencies consider the environmental implications of actions before they are undertaken; the environmental impact statements are then required to be made public, so that individuals have the opportunity to comment on government actions that will affect their communities. The law begins with a “Congressional Declaration of National Environmental Policy” which identifies the impact of population growth as one of the law’s chief concerns. Despite this, no environmental analysis has been performed on any immigration action in the decades since NEPA’s passage, even though the federal government’s main influence on U.S. population numbers comes through its immigration policies.

Julie Axelrod, the director of litigation for the Center for Immigration Studies, pioneered using NEPA to sue government agencies for not conducting environmental analysis on immigration actions. On this week’s episode of Parsing Immigration Policy, Axelrod discusses the NEPA lawsuits filed against the Department of Homeland Security for ignoring immigration actions in its NEPA procedures.