This Earth Day we must counter attempts to infiltrate our festivities. Anti-immigrant groups like California Population Stabilization (CAPS) and NumbersUSA are attempting to focus on overpopulation by specifically bashing immigrants and blaming them for environmental degradation. As environmentalists and activists, it is our responsibility on this day to define the significance and direction of our movement. We must address anti-immigrant bigots interested in a punitive immigration policy and decline their intentions to put forth openly racist agendas.
CAPS participated in Earth Day events in Santa Barbara this past Saturday and in San Diego last Sunday. It tabled and promoted its stance on the correlation between immigration and U.S. population levels. While CAPS considers itself an environmental group, it is important to understand where CAPS’s interests really lie. CAPS argues that immigrants are responsible for the “destruction of forests, national parks, and natural habitats….over-consumption of precious natural resources; deadly sewage on our beaches; continually expanding urban sprawl; and more.”
Rick Oltman, the media director for CAPS is also a member of the Council of Conservative Citizens, formerly known as the White Citizens Council. The Council of Conservative Citizens’ statement of principles says,
“We therefore oppose the massive immigration of non-European and non-Western peoples into the United States that threatens to transform our nation into a non-European majority in our lifetime.”
While CAPS is pushing awareness around population, its interest in environmental concerns is clearly ungrounded. Like CAPS, anti-immigrant group NumbersUSA has hosted several articles this week on its website to mobilize around Earth Day with messages of hate. NumbersUSA president Roy Beck states on his website, “Thursday is the 40th Anniversary of the first Earth Day—and a grim reminder of how immigration has undercut virtually all environmental progress.” NumbersUSA operates at the nerve center of the most influential anti-immigrant network in the country. This network, created by John Tanton, consists of over two dozen lobby, legal, legislative, and environmental groups that have penetrated mainstream social and political discourse. NumbersUSA was founded in 1997 under the financial umbrella of Tanton’s U.S., Inc.
NumbersUSA and CAPS have no real programmatic initiatives to address climate change. Both of these organizations interests lie in stopping immigration. There are other ways to address climate change, population and the survival of the earth that do not include initiatives that blame immigrants. NumbersUSA and CAPS are not legitimate environmentalists, nor do they have legitimate solutions that we should be thinking about on Earth Day.
NumbersUSA and CAPS should be shut out on Earth Day. It is necessary to address and re-define our interests in protecting the earth on our terms. Instead of allowing immigrant bashing, we must include voices that believe in defending and discussing steps forward to preserve the earth rather than exclude people of color from the table altogether. While Earth Day festivals throughout this week are focusing on climate change, sustainability and community-building, we must make sure that anti-immigrant groups like CAPS and NumbersUSA are not leading us down the slippery slope to the murky world of white nationalism. No matter how environmentally friendly it may be.