Anti-Immigrant Front Group Launches Ad Campaign Claiming Reduced Immigration Will ‘Save The Earth’

ImmigrationA group whose entire mission is built on the notion that immigrants are contributing to global climate change, Californians for Population Stablization (CAPS), has released two new ads which claim that “saving the earth in California starts with reduced immigration.” According to CAPS’ logic, “immigration and births to immigrants” lead to unsustainable population growth which leads to global warming and is amplified by the fact that immigrants’ energy use quickly becomes “Americanized” when they move to the US.

The television ad informs Californians that they have some “tough decisions to make” about immigration and global warming:

“Concerned about Americans’ huge carbon foot print? Then you should be concerned about immigration… Reducing immigration won’t solve global warming, but it is part of the solution. We’ve got some tough choices to make.

Watch it:

The corresponding radio ad tells Californians that they have to face an “inconvenient truth” about immigration and climate change:

“The inconvenient truth is that population growth and environmental degradation go hand in hand…by 2050 our population will reach 60 million — driven almost entirely by immigration and immigrant births. And when immigrants come to California, their carbon footprint quadruples what it was…So if we’re going to do our share to save the earth, our immigration levels must be reduced. That’s a tough pill for compassionate Californians to swallow, but swallow it we must.


A CAPS press release indicates that the ads are based on the shoddy research presented by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), a group which has been described as having “never found any aspect of immigration it likes.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center and Center for New Community, both groups were founded and funded by John Tanton — a man with “troubling associations with racists, white supremacists, and political extremists.” Other “Tanton network” organizations have parroted similar claims, including NumbersUSA, Progressives for Immigration Reform, and the hate group Federation for American Immigration Reform which recently launched a new social networking website,, aimed at “furthering the debate” on “US overpopulation and the role that immigration plays.”

All of Tanton’s organizations are fixated on scapegoating immigrants and sidestep the fact that the central problem has more to do with US consumption patterns. Rather than asking Americans to get rid of their gas guzzling automobiles, CAPS suggests getting rid of immigrants. However, energy consumption is driven by a host of factors totally unrelated to population size, such as societal dependence on polluting and non-renewable fossil fuels; utilization of energy-efficient technologies; and the development of mass transit systems that minimize individual automobile use. That explains why the World Resources Institute found that though the US is home to 23% fewer people than the European nations of the EU-15, it still produces 70% more greenhouse gases.

Ultimately, CAPS is essentially suggesting that the world would be better off if immigrants stayed poor in their less consuming, less industrialized countries. Based on this logic, illegal immigration isn’t the problem, increased wealth and international development are.


However, quite the contrary, “immigrants, in essence, are doing precisely what planners want the rest of us to do,” says to UCLA professor Ali Modarres who recently found that, compared to Americans, more immigrants walk, bike, bus, or metro to work and fewer drive cars in the state of California. While CAPS and others blame immigrants for everything from traffic jams to depleting aquifers, Mordares suggests that, “immigrants are greening our cities, how about giving them a break?”

Andrea Christina Nill

Republished with permission from the Wonk Room/Think Progress


  1. wg2k1 says

    @Lamb – unionization rates can be increased if unions would organize immigrants (all kinds – unions are bad at organizing them). The unionization rate in Los Angeles is pretty good – around 15%. Not as good as SF at 30%, but much better than the rest of the country. The open secret to growth has been organizing undocumented workers.

    In theory, closed borders that aren’t breached are a way to keep a labor pool regulated. Without the entry of competition (especially skilled competition), its theoretically easier to keep wages high.

    In fact, there is always going to be illegal entry into a country with comparatively high wages. This happens all over the world, not just in the United States. There are undocumented workers in China, entering from North Korea — they’re walking from one police state to another, to earn 30 cents an hour.

    Historically, the US has had inflows of illegal immigrants, ever since it decided that Chinese weren’t allowed to immigrate in 1881. (Prior to that, we basically had open borders to non-criminals.) People come here to work. This will not change — we will always have people who stay here illegally to work.

    Also, the idea that a stable population equates to high wages isn’t proven. European countries have low population growth rates, and also have relatively low wages (which discourage immigrants). They manage to have a high standard of living by implementing socialist policies to maintain social stability.

    I think the real issue isn’t immigration into the US. The real issue is urbanization. As cities grow, they consume fossil fuel. The more cities you have, and the more urbanized the rural population becomes (they get electricity and burn propane), the more your carbon footprint grows.

    Our carbon footprint is large because nearly every person in America is urbanized, including rural people. You occasionally come across populations that aren’t like this, but they are relatively few — on Native American reservations, in the hills in the Southeast, or in encampents of homeless people or undocumented workers.

    Europe and Japan are basically, totally urbanized. The rest of the world is catching up to us. That’s where we’ll see growth in individual carbon footprints.

    Urbanization causes immigration. That’s because someone who works in a city attains a skillset, and develops a value system that makes emigrating possible. The skillset is usually technological – working with information, or working to transform materials into products, or to service a technological society. The value system is Weber’s “Protestant work ethic” – to work on the clock, to seek wealth, save and invest, etc. (They also learn one of the common languages you need to survive in urbanized places: English, Spanish, Mandarin, maybe Japanese.)

    Once you are urbanized, you start comparing your wages to the wages of people in other countries. Then, you can become an emigrant.

    The movement of emigrants out of a country causes labor shortages. That, in turn, causes rural people to move to the city to become “workers” – people who work for money. Eventually, they, or their children, become the next group of urbanized people who consider emigrating.

    Today, unemployment is high. Wages have dropped. I’m sure immigration is slowing. People are saving money instead of spending.

    Our carbon footprint is shrinking.

    The real way to a green economy is to de-urbanize. To get rid of wage labor, or at least cut our hours. To increase poverty, but also increase welfare programs to keep the poor from suffering too much. Do this, and immigration will slow, or may even reverse.

    Are we up to this challenge?

  2. Herb Engstrom says

    I am heartened to find that there are liberal, progressive Democrats like Steve Lamb and Kevin Lynn that realize the threat to the environment posed by the ever increasing population of the U.S. and the world. They are not intimidated by either name calling or liberal conventional wisdom.

    Much of the discussion has focused on global warming due to increasing population. There are many other troubling phenomena:
    * The earth is running short of fresh water due in part to over utilization of ground water.
    * We are facing the greatest species extinction since the mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous period 65 million years ago.
    * We are turning some of the world’s most valuable agricultural land in California’s central valley (and other places) into suburban sprawl.
    * The oceans are over fished.
    * The worlds forests are being decimated.

    Here in the U.S., we have a population growth of over 1% per year. That’s 3 million new people to feed, to water, and to find homes for. Of that population growth, one third comes from new births over deaths, but two thirds comes from immigration, both legal and illegal. Obviously, if we are going to preserve the environment, we have to address the immigration issue.

    The question I have for Andrea Chrsitina Nill and others that allege racism or xenophobia is this:

    What do you expect the earth to be like in, say, 1,000 years?

    In his post Steve Lamb mentioned the word “sustainable” at least a couple of times, and therein lies the critical consideration. If we want to leave our descendants a livable world, we must eventually rely on renewable resources. The question that needs an answer is this:

    What population of the United States (and the world) would constitute and indefinitely sustainable population? A number of people (E.g., Paul Ehrlich, Dell Erickson, Garrett Hardin, D. and M. Pimentel) have addressed this question. They all seem to conclude that America’s current population is already too large to be sustainable.

    The earth will one day achieve a sustainable population, but if we don’t take steps to do this soon using relatively humane methods, nature will do it for us. Nature’s methods are famine, pestilence, and violence. Is that what we want?

    And for people that dismiss those of us with these concerns as racists or xenophobes, I remind them of the wise words of Marcus Tullius Cicero, “When you have no basis of argument, abuse the plaintiff.”

  3. Steve Lamb says

    Dear Poum37-

    Well aside from name calling people who disagree with you, and asserting that we blame immigrants, when at least my comments and Kevin Lynne’s comments most clearly do not and mine in fact blame the oligarchs and Capitalists of many nations, do you have anything? Any personal experience? Any measured scientific studies of how moving from the third to the first world or from the first world to America effect one’s carbon footprint? Anything?

    Aside from reasserting that to disagree with your position by agreeing with a scientific study is to be a xenophobe, what have you to contribute? Aside from calling people names while bolstering, if by intention or stupidity, the profits of CAPITAL against LABOR, do you have a position? What is your position based upon? Pragmatism? Science? Warm fuzzyness? a Tribal comraderie?

    Do you have anything, any arrow in your quiver other than Xenophobe?

    I think it’s kinda funny to be called a xenophobe when discussing immigration from Mexico, one of the most culturally xenophobic, racist nations on earth where people are still locked into their social position in society and are given access to advancement based almost entirely upon birth and skin color. What a joke!

    You , whatever your real name is, should meet some Mexicans of African decent and talk to them about what Mexico is like for them TODAY. Not so good. Or talk to a clearly Indian person about how their pure native Indian heritage in Mexico circumscribes their lives. To a Mulatto person (what most Americans think of when they say “Mexican”) about how much better off the “Europeans” in Mexico are. These are the oligarchs of Mexico who, although their families have not lived in Europe for several hundred years, consider themselves to be Spanish, French or Italian and think of themselves as “White” and destined to rule by heaven and right of birth and natural selection, over the “others”, “Indians”, “Peons” and so on, who have maintained Mexico as a feudal nation to the benefit of their wealth and privilege.

  4. poum37 says

    Touch a nerve?

    I use the term xenophobe because the premise of the argument is so weak it leads me too suspect ulterior motives.

    There is a legitimate debate to have regarding our immigration policy or lack there of. The argument that immigrants are ruining the country, this time clothed in eco speak, is as old as “Irish need not apply”.

  5. Kevin Lynn says

    Just before the start of the Iraq War I marched, wrote and spoke out vociferously against it. At that time there were people who called me unpatriotic and naive and this despite having served in the Army for 10 years.

    Now there is someone calling me a xenophobe despite being the son of an immigrant and having lived (not just visited) on three continents. As Ghandi said, “first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win . . .”

  6. Steve Lamb says

    Well ! I can’t wait for some emotional unreasoning person to call be a xenophobe…But I’m going to comment on this issue anyway.

    Our present immigration policy is a disaster for all American workers. It is one that benefits Oligarchs in the United States, Mexico, China, primarily, and other places in the world like Ireland, to a lesser extent. In the specific case of Mexico, since thats where most of the heat and so little light is being placed in this argument.

    The people in Mexico with the highest drive to better life for their families are leaving that country and taking pressure off the oligarchs there to raise living standards and standards of democracy. This leaves the Mexican People without their natural leaders and activists, greatly empowering the Ivy League educated Oligarchs of mexico who see their people as nothing more than Peons. So an open border is in the first place a anti – progressive situation for the future of the Mexican People in Mexico.I guess I can now be called a Xenophobe or a racist now by the emotional here.

    In America the open border with Mexico is anti-progressive because a endless supply of labor who have no recourse to the law and general society can not help but do what it has done for thirty years: Drop wages, working conditions, benefits, and Unionization rates for ALL workers in the USA. By embracing an open border policy Progressives are driving American Citizens into the arms of their oppressors, the American oligarchs,and their talk show lackies, who pretend to care while reaping the benefits of this policy. Want to know why Kansas is voting against it’s own interests? It’s voting for the only people who pretend to give a good God Damn about American working people and one of the biggest threats to them. Many so called “Progressives” are making pronouncements about “just sacrifice” and that would be OK were it our jobs, and not the Jobs of working class blue collar Americans, we were so willing to sacrifice. Friends, our viewpoint has been classist and has aided our natural enemies. good Job. Does making this observation make me a xenophobe?

    All American workers are harmed by an open border with Mexico. Illegal immigrant workers are harmed as they still are forced to live as Peons, perhaps better off than they are in Mexico, but still a people with no recourse to the courts, no possibility of living empowered lives. The Oligarchs on both side of the border win here, In Mexico because those who would demand more leace the Country, in America because wages, unionization and working conditions are kept down, many workers have no recourse to justice and can be mistreated at will, and all workers with labor more plentiful have their wages run down and their un-certainty of employment increased. The Oligarchs and Capital have their wealth and power increased by this open border. Does this comment make me a xenophobe?

    Somehow progressives as a group, have found it in their hearts to have empathy for illegal immigrant workers while they look down their noses at native born American workers. I suggest this is counter productive to building an effective long term movement. Even the Children of illegal immigrants must view us with distrust as they become native born, legal, a threat to the Oligarchy and amazingly no longer have our support as we counter-productively support the next wave of illegal immigrants. We are cutting our throats as far as building a long term sustainable movement by our embrace of policies that devastate native born workers and erase the possibility of long term gain for all immigrants, legal and illegal. We have embraced people whoa re here criminally and in so doing given aid and comfort to our enemies. Perhaps we have done this because we are kind in our hearts, but it has been an unthinking knee jerk reaction, not action built of thought for our long term interests, the long term interests of the Mexican People or the long term interests of the American people. Good Job! Does this comment make me a Xenophobe?

    As to the Science of does importing a person from the third world to the first world increase that individuals carbon footprint- Uh DUH! At least it is quantified now. To those of you who hate or wish to ignore the science of that, shame on you for letting your emotions demand that you not examine the truth. What are you, Limbaugh listeners? Am I a Xenophobe for that comment?

    Finally as to Kevin Lynne’s excellent point, without the massive waves of immigration, legal and illegal, since the mid 1970’s America’s population would have stabilized. This situation would have been terrible for CAPITAL, as many homes, strip malls and other economic bubbles would never have been able to be supported. With a stable population wages would have been driven up and in all probability, American industry would have had to re-invest in more efficient machinery just to survive. This would have dramatically cut America’s carbon footprint. We would have had to expand our economy somehow, and the only way with a stable population to have done that would have been through infrastructure improvements- better rail, mass transit, sewage treatment plants, forest replanting,cleaner factories, better run farms. Immigration is making the nation as a whole, in terms of both wages and the commons poorer. I know this not just because of reading studies, but because my wife’s grandfather legally immigrated from a nation with a stable population. When we visit her cousins, we visit a nation of almost full employment, increasing wages, decreasing hours of work, increasing worker benefits and security. We visit a nation where all the tools in factories are replaced every five years and where green innovations that are developed in America but that no one here will buy, are bought by capital because they save money in the long run on them. We visit a nation where labor is at psychological rest, and capital is in worry. We visit a nation with incredible investment in quality infrastructure. We visit the kind of place Americans once thought we would grow to become and Progressives no longer dare to dream this Country can be. We have sold that future for ourselves and our Children to some really diabolical Oligarchs who have a policy destructive to Mexico and America, but beneficial to themselves. we have sold out because they, who despise all working people have told us we were heartless to not support policies against our own and the immigrants long term interests. If seeing this and saying what is so is so makes me or anyone else a xenophobe, well we need more of them and we need them now.

  7. Poum37 says

    Actually immigrants over the span of their lives create less of a carbon footprint because a portion of their lives was spent in another less developed country.

    If the carbon foot print of the USA is your concern then Americans should stop breeding immediately and use exclusively immigrants to replenish the population. The portion of the immigrants’ life, lived abroad averaged in with their life in the USA will always lead to a smaller aggregate carbon foot print than that of a native born US citizen.

    Nice try xenophobes.

  8. Kevin Lynn says

    I read this article with amazement. We had eight years of a Repbublican president and administration that refused to accept science because it either conflicted with some fairy talesque view of the world or impinged on someone’s abilitly to make an easy dollar. Now, here is someone who proclaims themselves to be a Democratic Party member who is equally dismissive of science.

    Last February, Paul Murtaugh, a professor of statistics at Oregon State University released a study that pointed directly to the impact increased population levels in the United States is having on the world in terms of CO2 emissions. When someone moves from a third world country to the US, they increase their carbon footprint by a factor as much as 20. Even if someone were to immigrate to the US from a developed country such as the United Kingdom, their carbon footprint would increase by a factor of 9. And given that if not for explosive levels of immigration US population would have stabilised in 1972, one must in all fairness look at immigration.

    P.S. Last year, an organization I sit on the board of that is trying to have a rational conversation on immigration was called “racist” by the SPLC. However, when the SPLC learned that our Director, Leah Durant was a black woman they pulled the slanderous verbiage from the website. An organization with more honor might have issued an apology. . .

  9. Virginia Hoge says

    This is so sick. This is racism, right there out in the open.

    Not to mention, a much better way to Save the Earth would be to “get rid” of these right-wing extremists and their self-serving “missions”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *