Does it signal a shift in focus?
Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS), an anti-immigrant group that poses as an environmental organization, launched a new television ad on September 7, during a Republican presidential debate. The ad ran during the first commercial break, and called for further restricting documented (so-called “legal”) immigration into the country because of high unemployment. Online ads also began appearing on Facebook and Google with links to the website for the television commercial.
The ads are notable because they shift the focus from demonizing undocumented immigrants to a new emphasis on curtailing all immigration. After years of work by anti-immigrant organizations such as Californians for Population Stabilization, public opinion has largely turned against so-called illegals. According to an April 2010 New York Times poll, 83% of the general population thinks “illegal immigration” is a very serious or somewhat serious problem. Among Tea Party supporters, that poll found 97% who thought it was a serious problem. Having largely won that battle for public opinion, CAPS is now targeting documented immigrants. And according to that same poll they might find a reservoir of support among Tea Party supporters, 42% of whom said they think legal immigration should be decreased.
Nativist organizations are now relatively free to focus less attention on undocumented immigrants and spend more time and money convincing voters to further curtail all immigration. Consider this new campaign by CAPS a “trial balloon” for the national network of anti-immigrant groups, as they gear up for 2012 and beyond.
Prior to the debate, CAPS announced its plan to catch viewers’ attention with its TV ad. The goal was to push the politicians gathered on stage to reject documented immigration. “We’re going to shine a light on the proverbial elephant in the room,” CAPS chair Marilyn DeYoung said in a statement. “Unfortunately, most Republicans don’t know our government is admitting more new, legal immigrants every month than the number of new jobs our economy is creating. That math doesn’t add up for anyone, not Californians who can’t find jobs, not new legal immigrants and certainly not for the American taxpayer.”
What is Californians for Population Stabilization?
According to its mission statement, Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) “works to formulate and advance policies and programs designed to stabilize the population of California at a level which will preserve a good quality of life for all Californians.” In 1986 founders of CAPS split from the population control group Zero Population Growth because “that organization, like many other population groups, decided to focus on the politically safer issue of global overpopulation.”
CAPS is one of several anti-immigrant organizations from the sector of the environmental movement that works on “population control.” According to its background statement: “Electric vehicles and anti-sprawl campaigns may have merit … but because they deal with the symptoms rather than the underlying causes of society’s overpopulation woes, they are no substitute for just saying “no” to current and unprecedented mass immigration policies.”
Californians for Population Stabilization has extensive ties to the white nationalist movement. It received funding from the racist Pioneer Fund, for instance, a foundation established in 1938 to promote eugenics and “race science.” It has also hired controversial figures such as Joe Guzzardi, former editor of letters section of the racist website, VDARE. He is currently a Senior Writing Fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization.
In early 2007, CAPS hired Rick Oltman as their national media director. Oltman has been a member of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white-ist organization descended directly from the old White Citizens Councils. He spoke at the Council’s 1994 national convention. Oltman’s name also regularly appears on the VDARE website. In 1996, while chair of the Marin County Republican Central Committee, Oltman publicly agreed with the beating of undocumented immigrants. He is no longer listed as a CAPS staff member, although he continue to post items on the CAPS blog, where he is referred to as the founder of the “Immigration Tea Party.”
CAPS has spent the past twenty-five years blaming immigrants for everything from suburban sprawl and air pollution, to terrorism and economic problems. One issue of its newsletter, for example, included an article titled “Open Borders and Illegals Spread Infectious Diseases.” The charge that particular peoples are “disease carrying” is a classic piece of xenophobic bigotry. Like other national anti-immigrant groups, Californians for Population Stabilization has also attacked the birthright citizenship provisions of the 14th Amendment.
As for the group’s environmental bona fides, the only real work CAPS has done inside the environmental movement is to back a nativist takeover attempt of the nation’s oldest conservation group, the Sierra Club. CAPS and its leadership—particularly vice president Ben Zuckerman and advisory board member Richard Lamm—were intimately involved in a concerted effort to stack the board of the Sierra Club with anti-immigrant activists in 2004. CAPS appealed directly to Sierra Club members, urging them to vote for “population conscious” candidates for its board. Zuckerman was elected to the Sierra Club board in 2002 while Lamm’s 2004 bid failed due largely to efforts of Sierra Club members who opposed the anti-immigrant positions of the CAPS-backed candidates.
At the recently concluded GOP debate, the putative candidates were not were not yet prepared to denounce so-called legal immigrants. They were, however, more than willing to discuss border fences, Predator Drones and other means of keeping out undocumented immigrants. In the future, IREHR will be monitoring the situation to see if CAPS and their allies can change course and convince the public and policy makers that they need to restrict fully documented immigration.