SAN DIEGO - New ads leading up to Tuesday's Earth Day celebration are sparking a backlash from immigrant rights groups.
The controversial ads draw a link between immigration and damage to the environment
In the ad, a young boy asks a series of questions:
-- "If Californians are having fewer children, why is it so crowded?"
-- "If Californians are having fewer children, why are there so many cars?"
-- "If Californians are having fewer children, why isn't there enough water?"
After one more question, this answer is provided by the ad's narrator: "Virtually all of California's population growth is from immigration. Let's slow immigration and save some California for tomorrow."
The ad was created by the group Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS), aimed at both legal and illegal immigration.
San Diego State University ecologist Stu Hurlbert, a longtime member of CAPS, told 10News, "The main thing is to wake people up."
Hurlbert said science has shown that more people translates into more trash, more pollution, less water and fewer other resources.
"Population is the 800-pound gorilla in the living room that nobody wants to talk about," said Hurlbert.
However, some call the population talk misguided.
"To target a single group, it's misdirected," said immigration rights activist Pedro Rios.
Rios said environmental policy is complex and debate should be focused on using resources wisely and building sustainable communities.
"I think the ad is just using a day like Earth Day to promote intolerance," said Rios, who is head of the San Diego chapter of the American Friends Service Committee.
Rios points out Hurlbert is a former member of the San Diego Minutemen.
Hurlbert said he was a member of the Minutemen group, but contends neither that group nor the ad's creators are anti-immigrant.
"They are using the race card to suppress any discussion of population policy," said Hurlbert.
Critics like Rios wonder about the timing and need of the population discussion.
Illegal immigration is believed to be at its lowest levels in four decades.
The ads, running in San Diego, San Francisco and Los Angeles, will wrap up by the end of Tuesday.
Watch the commercial below (mobile users can watch here http://bit.ly/1lBUL2L)