An anti-immigration group blames California’s historic drought on immigrants as it launched a media campaign to tighten immigration laws, the LA Times reports.
The group, California for Population Stabilization, is a long-time advocate for stricter immigration laws, arguing that the state’s population growth is not sustainable with its limited natural resources.
The group sees the recent drought as an opportunity to garner support to advance its causes including ending the right to citizenship for children born on U.S. soil and banning Medicaid for undocumented immigrants.
CAPS launched a Facebook campaign this month, asking its 128,000 followers to “‘Like’ if you agree California’s drought could have been prevented with responsible immigration policies and limited population growth.”
The group has also paid for an ad aired across the state, in which a young boy asks, “If Californians are having fewer children, why isn’t there enough water?”
Recent conservation efforts, including Gov. Jerry Brown’s mandate of a 25 percent reduction in urban water usage, are also a target of CAPS’s attack.
“You can’t have that proclamation at the same time you’re inviting everybody from everywhere to come here,” said Jo Wideman, executive director of CAPS.
Brown and the Democratic-controlled Legislature have backed recent immigrant-friendly measures.
CAPS’s view is shared by New Jersey Star-Ledger columnist Paul Mulshine, who said last month that immigrants were to blame for California’s drought because they were “competing for water resources.”
Stanford academic Victor Davis Hanson, writing for the National Review, also argued that while California has seen dry spells like this in the past, the state’s population is over 10 million more than that during the last drought in the early 1990s.
Many who support stricter immigration policies, including Hanson, have pointed out that immigration is a new major factor of population growth in California, where 1 out of 4 residents was foreign-born.
Census data show that while more U.S.-born residents are moving out of California than moving in, immigration from outside the country is increasing. Of the 3 to 4 million people added each year to the state’s population, a large percentage are immigrants or their children. However, compared to the 1990s, when immigration increase was at 37 percent, the 2000s saw a much slower pace with a 15 percent increase, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.
“Essentially all of California’s rapid population growth has been due to people from other countries and the children of immigrants,” said Ben Zuckerman, an astrophysics professor at UCLA and a board member of CAPS. “The larger the population of California, the more difficult it will be to deal with the effects of the drought.”
But some drought experts would disagree, for, as they have pointed out, agriculture is where the majority of the water in the state goes, not urban usage.
According to William Patzert, a climatologist from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the facts do not support CAPS’s argument, . Meager snowpack and poor planning are what caused the dry spell, not drinking or showering by immigrants, he said.
Besides, immigrants are likely to consume less water per capital than the average California resident since many of them live in multi-family residences rather than single-family homes that often have higher water consumption, as some have argued.
The “burden” of immigrants is unlikely to be very significant, according to Stephanie Pincetl, professor in residence at the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA.
Economically, conservation is much more effective than tightening immigration laws, she said. “Do we not want to have agriculture? Do we want to not have housekeepers?”
Founded in 1986 by conservationists advocating for population controls, CAPS’s motto is “save some California for tomorrow.” The group has fought against issuing special state driver’s licenses for immigrants in the country illegally and state legislature that limits collaboration between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities. Increasing legal immigration is also on the list of the group’s target list.
In 2013, a member of its board of directors, Marilyn Brant Chandler DeYoung, stirred up controversy by suggesting immigrants’ children were potential criminals.
“A baby can join a gang and then commit a crime. A baby can drop out of school and become a criminal. A baby grows up,” she said in a videotaped interview with Cuentame, a Latino advocacy group.
According to The Huffington Post, CAPS is considered “an extremist hate group that isn’t rooted in any reality” by the California Immigrant Policy Center (CIPC).
“They’re basically trying to find any way to spin their anti-immigrant vitriol, so hey, why not choose the environment?” CIPC executive director Reshma Shamasunder told HuffPost. “It’s a little bit disingenuous to scapegoat a very specific community,” she commented on the groups argument about the drought, adding that big corporations are responsible for most damage done to the environment.
Jo Wideman, Executive Director of CAPS denied that her organization is bigoted.
“It’s not about who, it’s about how many,” she said. “As the drought gets worse, we think people will begin to think more about overpopulation,” she said.