Are immigrants to blame for California’s drought?
May 26, 2015
A statewide media campaign pinning blame for California’s drought on immigrants has kicked off a debate on whether state immigration laws have an affect on water shortages. [LA Times]
Santa Barbara-based Californians for Population Stabilization has long called for tougher immigration laws and stricter enforcement of existing ones. The group, which is known as CAPS, is now running television commercials arguing that California’s natural resources cannot sustain the current levels of population growth.
“If Californians are having fewer children, why isn’t there enough water?,” a young boy asks in a CAPS commercial that has aired across the state.
CAPS is also asking its 128,000 Facebook followers to “Like if you agree California’s drought could have been prevented with responsible immigration policies and limited population growth.”
Some academics and columnists have publicy agreed with the CAPS stance on the drought. Stanford academic Victor Davis Hanson wrote in a National Review column that California has well over 10 million more residents now that it had during the last drought in the early 1990s.
Hanson and others say California census data shows that 1 in 4 residents was born outside of the country.
UCLA astrophysics professor Ben Zuckerman said California’s rapid population growth is essentially due to people coming from other countries, as well as the children of immigrants. Zuckerman, who also sits on the CAPS board, says that impacts the drought.
“The larger the population of California, the more difficult it will be to deal with the effects of the drought,” Zuckerman said.
But, some drought experts disagree and point to other factors as causes of the drought.
NASA climatologist William Patzert said the drought is caused by meager snowpack and poor planning, “not because the immigrants are drinking too much water or taking too many showers.” Blaming the drought on immigrants does not fit the facts, Patzert said.
Others point out that the majority of the state’s water is used to support agriculture and that immigrants tend to live in multi-family dwellings, as opposed to higher-consuming single-family homes. Stephanie Pincetl, a professor at UCLA’s Institute of Environment and Sustainability said Californians would better served by tearing up their lawns than kicking out immigrants who contribute to the economy.
“Do we want to have economic decline?” Pincetl said. “Do we not want to have agriculture? Do we want to not have housekeepers?”