Group Says California Immigration Policies Contributed to Drought

Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times, May 24, 2015

In a television commercial that has aired across the state, a young boy asks: “If Californians are having fewer children, why isn’t there enough water?”

The ad is part of a wider media campaign blaming California’s historic drought on the state’s large number of immigrants. The group that paid for it, Californians for Population Stabilization, has long called for stricter enforcement of immigration laws, arguing that the state’s natural resources cannot sustain high levels of population growth.

The group has used the recent spotlight on California’s dwindling water reserves to try to gain support for its many favored causes, which include ending the right to citizenship for every child born on U.S. soil and opposing state efforts to give immigrants in the country illegally access to Medicaid.

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In an article in the National Review, Stanford academic Victor Davis Hanson argued that while California’s current dry spell is not novel, “What is new is that the state has never had 40 million residents during a drought–well over 10 million more than during the last dry spell in the early 1990s.”

Hanson and others point to the recent pattern of population growth in California, where census data show that 1 in 4 residents was born outside the country.

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The state continues to add about 3 million to 4 million people each decade, census data show. A large percentage of them are immigrants or their children.

“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 who sits on the board of CAPS. “The larger the population of California, the more difficult it will be to deal with the effects of the drought.”

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Groups such as CAPS say recent conservation efforts, including Gov. Jerry Brown’s mandate of a 25% reduction in urban water usage, are shortsighted and hypocritical, especially given recent immigrant-friendly measures backed by Brown and the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

“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.

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The group, whose motto is “save some California for tomorrow,” was founded in 1986 by conservationists who felt that mainstream environmental groups weren’t advocating enough for population controls.

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Immigrant advocates say population control arguments are racist and neglect California’s immigrant past. “It’s too soaked with irony for the colonizers to be making this argument,” said Chris Newman, an attorney with the National Day Laborers Organizing Network.

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