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Unlawful Immigrants* in California and Los Angeles County

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), an estimated 2,830,000 unlawful immigrants resided in California in 2011, compared to 1.5 million in 1990 and 2.5 million in 2000. This number represents about 24 percent of the entire estimated unlawful immigrant population in the United States (11.5 million in 2011). This estimate puts the percentage of California's population that are unlawful immigrants to be about 7.5 percent, with a majority (about 60 percent) being from Mexico. Across the entire United States, an estimated 6.8 million unlawful immigrants were from Mexico, up from 4.7 million in 2000.

Los Angeles County

DHS does not offer estimates for the unlawful immigrant population specifically in Los Angeles County, but the Los Angeles Almanac studied comparative statistics of English language learners in California school districts that might assist in estimating the unlawful immigrant population in individual counties and cities. The Almanac estimates that Los Angeles County was home to 762,000 unlawful immigrants in 2010.  Even if using the 7.5 percent of California's population as unlawful immigrants as a broadly applied percentage across California, the estimate of the unlawful immigrant population in Los Angeles County exceeds 700,000. The Almanac further estimates that about 382,000 unlawful immigrants living within the area encompassed by the Los Angeles Unified School District (that includes East Los Angeles and South Gate); 36,000 live in the area encompassed by the Long Beach School District; 24,000 live in the area encompassed by the Compton School District; 21,000 live in the area encompassed by the Pomona School District; 19,000 live in the area encompassed by the Montebello School District; 12,000 live in the area encompassed by the Lynwood School District. The remaining 35 percent of unlawful immigrants in Los Angeles County, or an estimated 268,000, live elsewhere in the county.

* Per the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, "Unauthorized immigrant" is defined as a foreign-born non-citizen who is not a legal resident. Most unauthorized immigrants either entered the United States without being inspected at the United States border or were admitted temporarily and stayed past the date they were required to leave. Other terms commonly used in public discourse are "illegal immigrant," "illegal alien," "unlawful immigrant" or "undocumented immigrant."

 

Immigration has long been a hot issue in California, even as far back as the latter days of California's
Mexican period (1822 to 1846). Pio Pico, the last Mexican governor of California, lamented, "We find
ourselves suddenly threatened by hordes of Yankee immigrants...whose progress we cannot arrest."

 

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