By Marcelino Jose
It seems simultaneously comedic and tragic that there has to be a rebuttal to the idea that a climate-caused drought with its ensuing water shortages is the fault of immigration. First, presidential candidate, Carly Fiorina, blames the California drought on environmentalists and now this. Of course, there are many environmentally minded immigrants so that compounds the problem – a double threat.
Though not quite a call for ethnic cleansing, the Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) claim that if it weren’t for immigrants, there would be more water for everyone else. How much? According to NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Climatologist William Patzert, a leading authority on the drought, “About 25% of the total water goes to the environment. After that 60% goes to agriculture. Less than 10% is for urban or personal use.” He says newer migrants use a tiny fraction. With his calculation, it’s safe to say that only about 1% is being consumed by undocumented immigrants. And they have to compete for that precious resource with such water-guzzling affluent communities as Beverly Hills and Newport Beach.
It’s hard to understand how immigrants can be the cause of water shortages in California since this drought extends throughout many western states with appreciably smaller immigrant populations. And then there’s Texas with the second largest undocumented immigrant population, which did suffer from years of drought but is now awash in floods. At no point does CAPS sound the alarm about those migrating to California from other states and never are the millions of tourists chided for their water consumption.
The facts, as well as all normal parameters of sanity and decency, do not support the preposterous claims of CAPS. Population growth in California has slowed markedly in the last two decades. Without immigration, California would most likely be looking at negative population growth, which would spell disaster for the economy in terms of both growing a work force and consumer base.
The oft-cited and demeaning defense of immigrants is that they’re needed to harvest our vital crops, manicure our lawns, clean our homes and take care of our children. Despite the upturned noses of those who supposedly contribute so much more to our society, it’s hard to imagine a world without these frontline labor-intensive services. And then there are all the millions of other immigrants who attend college, serve in our military, work several jobs to support their families, build our homes, inspire us with their art, share their ethnic cuisine, give back to their communities and promote the nation’s rich diversity and prosperity.
CAPS claims that California has never faced a drought with 40 million people contesting every drop of water. Actually, the estimated population of California is 38 million, and in 2008 when CAPS made the same absurd drought-related arguments, the state was home to approximately 37 million.
And in this most populace, drought-stricken state, the vast majority of California’s most-likely voters favor a pathway to citizenship for immigrants by a 73% to 24% margin if they meet certain conditions: paying back taxes, passing a criminal background check, withstanding a waiting period and learning English. Water consumption is never mentioned.
CAPS should be viewed by all in the same light as the Anti-Defamation League sees it: one of the most active state-based anti-immigrant groups in the country.
History is rife with finding ways to make the newcomer, the different, the other the source of life’s hardships – Native Americans, Jews, African Americans, Gypsies, Gays, the Irish and Uppity Women. Now immigrants, particularly Latinos, appear to have angered the gods and brought about an apocalyptic moment when both water and sanity are in short supply.