CAPS Accused of Blaming California Immigrants for Drought

Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS), a group worried about Senate Bill 4, the measure recently passed that would enable undocumented immigrants to buy health insurance on the state exchange, has rereleased a thirty-second ad urging the slowing of immigration that has been attacked by critics for connecting the surge in immigrants to the paucity of water available in the state.

The ad, first released in April 2014, features a young boy asking:

If Californians are having fewer children, why is it so crowded? If Californians are having fewer children, why are there so many cars? If Californians are having fewer children, why isn’t there enough water? If Californians are having fewer children, where are all the people coming from?

Over the car reference, the ad posts the message, “30 million cars.” Over the water reference, the post reads, “Many Californians are running out of water.” Over the quote referencing fewer children, the message reads, “Over 98% of California’s population growth is from immigration.”

A voiceover follows, stating, “Virtually all of California’s population growth is from immigration. Let’s slow immigration and save some California for tomorrow.”

Despite the fact that the ad does not mention Latinos, Sen. Ricardo Lara, a member of the California Latino Legislative Caucus and the author of SB4, insisted:

I think those ads are disingenuous. They serve to further divide us as Californians. … And so the fact is if you want to scapegoat our community–that’s nothing new for us unfortunately. As immigrants, as Latinos, we’ve been used as scapegoats since the early ’90s.

Bob Huff, the lead Senate Republican, chimed in, “To blame it on immigrants is nuts. We have visitors coming in from all over the world. Are we going to blame them for the drought next?”

But Ric Oberlink, a spokesman for CAPS, answered both critics, telling KCRA 3:

No we’re not blaming immigrants. That’s a false issue. … I think the drought was a good way of indicating the message that there are diminishing resources. It’s not a matter of blaming immigrants, blaming babies, blaming anybody. We’re just pointing out when you have limited resources be it water, be it wildlife habitat, be it anything else, a growing human population has a very serious impact on that.

The 98% of population growth figure was allegedly gleaned from Governor Jerry Brown’s Department of Finance. But H.D. Palmer, speaking for the department, said, “We don’t know how they got there. But as for the drought it’s very simple. Mother Nature caused this drought. Immigration didn’t.” He added, “If you go back over the last 15 years, foreign migration has been on the decline in California. It’s declined by about 50,000 a year.”

CAPS Executive Director Jo Wideman stated in a CAPS press release:

It’s our responsibility to leave future generations in a better state when future droughts hit. That’s why it’s imperative that we have a mature, open discussion today about the impact population growth will have on California’s future, its water supplies and other natural resources. We’ve made great strides in conservation but our progress will continue to be overwhelmed by population growth at the current pace.

Wideman told KCRA that the ad will play in Sacramento and Los Angeles for the next three weeks.


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