The nonprofit Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) is under scrutiny for comments made by a member of the organization who said the DREAM Act is dangerous because children of “illegal aliens” may be communists or drug smugglers and because of ads against proposed parts of immigration reform like legalization or a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, a dicey area to wade into for a nonprofit.
The organization is dedicated to “preserving California’s future through the stabilization of [the] state’s human population focusing on the “overpopulation and the environmental impacts of ‘too many people’ throughout the world.” This mission statement has led them to take on the issue of illegal immigration.
Marilyn Deyoung, chairman of the board for CAPS, was interviewed by Cuentame, a Latino social media advocacy organization, which posted the video on Youtube.
“A baby can join a gang and then commit a crime, a baby can drop out of school and become a criminal, a baby grows up,” she said about immigrants. “The DREAM act is dangerous, children of illegal aliens who were brought here under this stupid birthright citizenship visa. They’re not getting into the depth of whether they’re communist or whether they’re drug smugglers or had felonies or had been in prison or anything. They know how to game our benefits — they’re on food stamps, they go to the hospital, get free education, free medical care.”
Many of the more than 100,000 people who saw the video expressed outrage on Cuentame’s social media channels as well as on Youtube.
Jo Wideman, executive director of CAPS, told NBC Latino Deyoung’s comments do not reflect those of the organization and that she is no longer a spokesperson for them.
“Her views expressed in that video are not views of the organization,” Wideman says. “Her comments were unfortunate, the video absolutely does not express the views of our organization.”
While Wideman stressed that Deyoung is no longer a spokesperson for CAPS, she is still listed as chairman on its board of directors in financial documents and on its website.
Wideman said that the organization has a new website going up in a month that will more generally go back to their roots focused on the impact of population on the environment. “There are too many people in the United States. If amnesty is enacted, millions more people will be able to come,” she says, adding that it will affect the poorest of the poor in the country.
The National Council of La Raza said CAPS can say their concern is the environment, but that it is actually an anti-immigrant group.
“This is part of the same network of anti-immigrant groups which go back to one man — John Tanton,” says NCLR spokesperson, Lisa Navarette, of the man behind FAIR and NumbersUSA. “CAPS was not founded by Tanton but umbrella organization U.S. Inc. has funded CAPS.”
Each group has their niche, according to Navarette. “This group claims immigrants are bad for environmental reasons, but inevitably, one of their members comes out with problematic opinions on race and ethnicity,” she says. “Even Glenn Beck has called CAPS kooky,” she adds, invoking the former Fox News personality.
CAPS released a video this week taking on John McCain for his work on the bipartisan “Gang of 8″ Senators working on immigration reform.
David Leopold, the former national president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and current general counsel for the organization, says non-profit organizations have to be careful with taking sides in political debates.
“It’s an important question — nonprofit groups should not be engaging in partisan politics,” he says. “The rules that govern are complicated. They can lobby on Capitol Hill but when it comes to endorsing that would be a line being crossed. They can criticize John McCain, but on the substance of issues.”
Wideman says the organization is nonpartisan and careful to toe the line and the reason it can release ads about John McCain is because legislation for immigration reform has not yet been introduced.
“You have to be very careful about grassroots lobbying and attempts to influence legislation or the public,” she says. “There is no legislation pending. We try to be very careful. For us it’s about how many people are coming in, not who is coming in.”
Cuentame’s founder Axel Cabellero says he doesn’t believe Wideman’s reasoning.
“This is what these pro-nativism, anti-immigrant groups do,” he says. “They push an agenda predicated on lies, hate and misinformation and when confronted – they backtrack. Say it wasn’t them – like kids, except their words harm people — the real lives of immigrants and Latinos.”
Wideman says her organization is not anti-Latino, but acknowledges that statements like Deyoung’s may rear their head again.
“From time to time you may hear someone make an unfortunate comment, but that is not our organization’s view.”