Illegal immigration may have faded as a hot-button political issue in California, but that doesn’t mean those without documentation have gone away, a new study by the Public Policy Institute of California concludes.
It’s long been assumed that about 3 million Californians are in the state illegally, most from Latin America. The PPIC report says the “best estimates suggest that in 2013 California was home to about 2.67 million undocumented immigrants.”
That would be “slightly more than 6 percent of the state’s population,” PPIC says, but with California’s population now pegged at 39 million, it would be closer to 7 percent. It would also be nearly a quarter of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living in the nation.
If the undocumented are close to 7 percent of the state’s population, they are nearly 10 percent of its labor force, PPIC calculates, adding, “undocumented immigrants work disproportionately in the farming, construction, production, services and transportation/materials moving industries.”
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Los Angeles County is home to nearly a third of the state’s illegal immigrant population (814,000), according to PPIC, followed by Orange and Santa Clara counties.
California voters, at the urging of then-Gov. Pete Wilson, passed a 1994 ballot measure aimed at denying public benefits to illegal immigrants, but the measure was later voided by the courts. However, PPIC’s polling indicates that “a large majority” of Californians now favor “a path to citizenship” for those in the country illegally.
Moreover, Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature have enacted a series of measures in recent years to quasi-legalize their status, including granting driver’s licenses and higher education benefits and barring discrimination, saying the state should act while Congress remains deadlocked on legalization.