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Group seeks cut in immigration

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John Brock does not want to be called a racist.

But in his quest to tighten the grip on U.S. immigration, allegations of racism are just one hurdle the 45-year-old Manhattan resident has been up against.

Brock was among a handful of people who addressed Community Board 5 last month with a resolution calling for a severe reduction in the number of immigrants allowed into the United States.

“We really want to emphasize that there is a real case to be made that has nothing to do with not liking the color of the skin of the people coming in,” Brock said in an interview following the meeting. “It’s so easy for people to say racism, and that intimidates people and they don’t want to talk about it anymore.”

Brock is co-chairman of the Tri-State Immigration Moratorium, or TRIM. The Manhattan-based advocacy group is touting the merits of the Aspen Resolution, a non-binding statement calling on Congress to stabilize the nation’s population by reducing immigration to replacement levels — equal numbers entering and leaving each year.

Although the resolution itself has no power, it is seen by members of TRIM as a way to demonstrate community support for a change of immigration policy that can only be made through federal legislation.

The resolution asserts that massive immigration accounted for 70 percent of U.S. population growth in the 1990s, a decade which saw a greater population jump than any other 10-year period in American history, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics.

Although the resolution was presented in a revised form to Community Board 5, which includes Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth and Middle Village, it was originally passed by the Aspen, Colo. City Council in December 1999.

“The real crux of the issue is the overall question of carrying capacity in a valley such as ours with limited water — or in the world,” said Rachel Richards, the mayor of Aspen when the resolution was approved there.

Aspen City Councilman Terry Paulson, a Democrat who was instrumental in getting the resolution passed, said he was concerned that population growth was causing a drop in the water table and an overall depletion of natural resources.

“The more I researched this whole immigration problem and population stabilization in general, I started realizing that if we don’t do something quickly, our future is pretty grim,” Paulson said.

On the surface, little about Aspen seems to have relevance to New York City, which has a population that is nearly twice that of the entire state of Colorado.

For Richards, however, the issue is more than environmental. Much of her desire to curb immigration stems from the “disturbing social issue” of how immigrants are treated once they come to Aspen, with many of them forced by inadequate wages to live in sub-standard housing.

In Queens, a borough often described as the most diverse county in the country, the notion of severely limiting immigration cuts into the fundamental values of many residents. At the same time, however, pressure is mounting to address similar quality-of-life issues to those in Aspen, like the illegal apartment conversions that have been incited by a severe housing shortage — which, in turn, is a consequence of high levels of immigration.

Although Price and others have presented the resolution to Community Board 5 at its May and June meetings — most recently drawing a small crowd of supporters from around the city — the board has not formulated a response to it.

“We have not taken any position,” said board member Vito Maranzano. “We’re not considering anything at the moment, because it’s not something that we normally touch or talk about, and that may drag on for a while.”

The only board member to directly address the proposal at the June meeting was Margaret Magnus, who acknowledged the problems caused by over-population but stressed they should be addressed through more creative solutions. Magnus suggested that immigrants be encouraged to go to cities that would benefit from the influx of people rather than staying in places like New York that are already brimming with immigrants.

“When you go to some of those cities, they do not have the richness, the cultures that we experience here,” said Magnus, an immigrant herself who came from Ireland for an education at age 16. She now has a doctorate in nursing and higher education administration.

“Generations and generations and generations of immigrants have come here for the opportunity to do well, and we cannot curtail the dream,” she said.

Margie McHugh, the executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said in a May interview that the problems cited by anti-immigration advocates stem from over-consumption rather than the influx of new immigrants.

Although Paulson acknowledged that waste is a factor in the depletion of the nation’s resources, he said simply curbing Americans’ bad habits would not alleviate the ills of over-population.

“Americans are definitely pigs, there’s no doubt about it. We’re over-consumptive,” Paulson said. “But is that an excuse for letting more people in? It just adds to the problem.”

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

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