The issue of illegal immigration has gripped the nation. As the state with the most illegal immigrants, California has an enormous stake in how public policies addressing the issue play out. In this heated environment, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) introduces a brief, user-friendly, fact-based report that lays out what we know about illegal immigration in California. This is the first edition of a new PPIC series, At Issue, intended to provide helpful, accurate information on topical issues of the day.
This edition addresses questions such as: How many California workers are illegal immigrants? Are most children of illegal immigrants born in the United States? How concerned are Californians about the topic of illegal immigration? Using the most current information available from sources such as the U.S. Census, the California Department of Finance, and the PPIC Statewide Survey, demographer Hans Johnson presents a picture of the state’s illegal immigrants—their numbers, origins, livelihoods, families, and the estimated fiscal impact they have on government and public services.
Some key points:
- One of every 15 California residents is an illegal immigrant.
- A majority of Californians (60%) believe that illegal immigrants should be allowed to apply for work permits.
- One of every 25 workers in the U.S. is an illegal immigrant—as are an estimated eight percent of California workers.
- The flow of illegal immigrants into the country is now greater than the flow of legal immigrants.
- Very few Californians (9%) say immigration or illegal immigration is the biggest problem facing the state. Yet opinions vary by region: Almost half of Los Angeles County residents (47%) say illegal immigration is a major problem, but only 25 percent in the Central Valley agree.
- The overall fiscal effect of illegal immigrants has not been reliably determined by anyone. The estimated effects depend on the accounting methods used.
- Although hotly debated, most studies find illegal immigrants have little impact on the wages and employment of U.S. workers.
- Illegal immigrants do not generate high tax revenue because of their low wages.
- Many illegal immigrants pay social security taxes but never collect benefits.
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PPIC is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving public policy through objective, nonpartisan research on the economic, social, and political issues that affect Californians. The institute was established in 1994 with an endowment from William R. Hewlett. PPIC does not take or support positions on any ballot measure or on any local, state, or federal legislation, nor does it endorse, support, or oppose any political parties or candidates for public office. This edition of At Issue was funded in part by a grant from The James Irvine Foundation.