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Most California dentists are immigrants. Where else do immigrants work?

It’s well known that most California farmworkers are immigrants. But did you know that so are most dentists, medical scientists, butchers and nursing aides?

California depends on its immigrant workforce more than any other state in the nation. Nearly 40 percent of the state’s full-time, year-round workers are immigrants, the highest rate in the nation, according to a Bee review of the latest census data.

The election of Donald Trump has brought new emphasis to immigration policy in California. The State Senate recently passed legislation that would make California a “Sanctuary State” by prohibiting local and state law enforcement from using their resources to help federal immigration enforcement.

Trump has expressed support for prioritizing worker skills when deciding who can legally enter the country. The current U.S. system for legal immigration is based largely on uniting families. While running for president, Trump called for a lengthy pause in some popular legal immigration programs, saying they took jobs from American workers.

High-skill jobs

These high-skill professions also rely heavily on immigrants. Percentage of full-time workers in California who are immigrants in these fields:
Hardware engineers 61%
Software app developers 60%
Electrical engineers 56%
Medical scientists 52%
Dentists 51%
Physical scientists 50%
Nuclear engineers 50%
Pharmacists 50%
Computer programmers 43%
Database administrators 43%
Engineering managers 43%
Registered nurses 43%
Industrial engineers 40%
Accountants 39%
Mechanical engineers 39%
Physicians and surgeons 39%
Computer systems analysts 38%
Computer network architects 37%
Computer systems managers 37%
Civil engineers 35%
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

More than half of California’s full-time immigrant workers are naturalized citizens. The others are a mix of residents here legally on visas and residents who are not authorized to be in the United States. The census bureau only asks about birthplace; it does not ask about legal status.

Nearly all California workers in some occupations are immigrants, including 93 percent of full-time sewing machine operators, 85 percent of front-line agricultural workers, 85 percent of housekeepers and 81 percent of dishwashers.

Several high-skill professions in California also rely heavily on immigrant workers. About 60 percent of computer hardware engineers and software developers are immigrants. So are most electrical engineers, medical scientists and dentists. Almost half of all pharmacists and computer programmers are immigrants.

Some professions employ relatively few immigrants. Less than 15 percent of firefighters, police officers, military personnel, correctional officers and paramedics are immigrants. Immigrants also make up only about 14 percent of teachers.

Mexico is the most common birthplace for full-time immigrant workers in California, but myriad other countries are represented as well. Central American countries supply about 8 percent of the state’s full-time truck drivers. More than 10 percent of the state’s computer programmers were born in China. More than one in five registered nurses were born in the Philippines. More than a quarter of the state’s software engineers were born in India.

Data Tracker is a regular feature that breaks down the numbers behind today’s news. Explore more trends at sacbee.com/datatracker.

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