LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A Santa Barbara-based group has sparked a firestorm after some say a video posted last year singled out immigrants as responsible for lower water supplies.
Supporters of the video say one of the primary reasons the drought is so severe and worsening is the overpopulation of California because of immigration, while critics charge the group that released the clip is scapegoating immigrants.
The video released by the group Californians for Population Stabilization is now at the center of the drought-immigration debate.
In it, a boy poses the following questions:
"If Californians are having fewer children, why is it so crowded?"
"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?"
"Virtually all of California's population growth is from immigration," responds a man in the clip.
Ben Zuckerman, a board member of CAPS since its founding nearly 30 years ago, says the video doesn't blame immigrants for the drought.
"What it says is, 'California is very crowded. We have a lot of cars in California, and we are running out of water,' " said Zuckerman, who is also an astronomer and professor at UCLA. "And California's population growth is substantial and is continuing, and it's due almost entirely to people emigrating to the United States or to California from other countries and their U.S.-born children."
But a recent Census Bureau analysis, as reported by the Sacramento Bee, concluded that California's once-soaring population growth slowed markedly during the past two decades, barely keeping pace with the nation as a whole since 2000, indicating that the state's growth will continue that pattern for the next half-century due largely to slowing birth and immigration rates.
Nonetheless, the video has stirred strong feelings from those who believe the clip is not only misleading, but inflammatory and scapegoating.
"People like those that put this video out are not concerned with people migrating from Long Island or from Chicago to California but instead use the issue of resource scarcity as a pretext to sort of cloak or disguise their concerns about the changing composition of California, and that's where I think it's important to sort of call this stuff for what it is," Chris Newman of the National Day Labor Organizing Network said. "Scapegoating and identifying immigrants as sort of the cause of the problem."
The Anti-Defamation League released the following statement about CAPS:
"Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) is one of the most active state-based anti-immigrant groups in the country. They aim to derail immigration reform, falsely associating immigrant demographics with a host of the world's problems. In 2008, CAPS blamed immigrants for California's drought problems. Seven years later, they are ringing the same alarmist bells … CAPS serves as a platform for a number of anti-immigrant extremists."
More specifically, in a posting two months ago, the Anti-Defamation League accused three of the group's most influential staffers and writers including the then-national media director had connections or associations with racist or extremist groups.
Zuckerman denies the group is anti-immigrant or extremist.
"It's not immigrants. It's the total number of people in California and how that number is increasing," he said.
But NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Climatologist William Patzert, a leading authority on the drought, says very little of California's water is going to immigrants.
"About 25 percent of the total water goes to the environment. After that, 60 percent goes to agriculture. Less than 10 percent is to urban or personal use," he said. "And so, if you could say that the newer migrants no matter where they came from are probably less than 1 percent of the water usage, all right. And so, that's a very tiny number."
CAPS says they hope the video will be a wakeup call for Californians, who must begin to get serious in taking on the issue of how many people the state can support with a dwindling water supply.
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