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Unauthorized Immigrants*
California and Los Angeles County

Immigration March in Los Angeles, 2006

May Day, 2006, immigration march in Los Angeles. Photo by Jonathan McIntosh via Wikimedia Commons

California

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), an estimated 2,830,000 unauthorized immigrants resided in California in 2012, compared to 1.5 million in 1990 and 2.5 million in 2000. This number represents 24.7 percent of the entire unauthorized immigrant population estimated to reside in the United States (11.4 million in 2012). About 7.5 percent of California's population was estimated to be unauthorized immigrants, with a majority (about 60 percent) from Mexico. Across the entire United States, an estimated 6.8 million unauthorized immigrants were from Mexico, up from 4.7 million in 2000.

More recently, the Pew Research Center, estimated that, in 2016, 2.2 million unauthorized immigrants resided in California, about 6 percent of the state's entire population and 21 percent of unauthorized immigrants living in the United States.

In 2014, the Public Policy Institute of California, estimated the unauthorized immigrant population in California to be mostly from Latin American (78 percent) with a declining majority being from Mexico (52 percent). Further, about a tenth of the state's workforce was composed of unauthorized immigrants and 12.3 percent of California's K-12 school children had an unauthorized immigrant parent.

Los Angeles County

DHS does not offer unauthorized immigrant estimates specifically for Los Angeles County, but the Pew Research Center estimated the unauthorized immigrant population in the Los Angeles-Orange County metropolitan area in 2016 to be 925,000 (down from 1.25 million in 2007). The Migration Policy Institute estimates the number specifically in Los Angeles County in 2016 to be 1,051,000 (see table below), approximately 10 percent of the county's entire population and the highest concentration in any U.S. county. The unauthorized immigrant populations combined in the five boroughs (counties) of New York City are approximately 700,000. In Harris County, Texas (Houston), the number is 412,000. In Cook County, Illinois (Chicago), it is 307,000. In Dallas County, Texas (Dallas), it is 247,000. In Dade County, Florida (Miami), it is 156,000.

The Migration Policy Institute estimates that the unauthorized immigrant population in Los Angeles County is most concentrated in Southeast Los Angeles County, Eastern San Fernando Valley and the San Gabriel Valley. The University of Southern California Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration reported that, in 2013, Los Angeles had the higher percentage of self-employed unauthorized immigrants (14%) and some of the most-settled in California, with a median time of residence of 10 years.


* 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," "unauthorized immigrant" or "undocumented immigrant."


Profile of the Unauthorized Population
Los Angeles County

Demographics Estimate % of Total
Unauthorized Population 1,051,000 100%
Top Countries of Birth
Mexico 633,000 60%
El Salvador 106,000 10%
Guatemala 90,000 9%
Philippines 37,000 4%
China 33,000 3%
Regions of Birth
Mexico & Central America 858,000 82%
Caribbean --- ---
South America 16,000 2%
Europe, Canada, Oceania 22,000 2%
Asia 146,000 14%
Africa 6,000 1%
Years of U.S. Residence
Under 5 118,000 11%
5-9 166,000 16%
10-14 225,000 21%
15-19 177,000 17%
20+ 363,000 35%
Age
Under 16 56,000 5%
16-24 125,000 12%
25-34 246,000 23%
35-44 269,000 26%
45-54 198,000 19%
55+ 156,000 15%
Gender
Female 501,000 48%
Family Relationships Estimate % of Total
Parental Status
Population age 15+ 1,005,000 100%
Reside with at least one U.S.-citizen child under 18 278,000 28%
Reside with noncitizen children only under 18 66,000 7%
Reside with no children 661,000 66%
Marital Status
Population age 15+ 1,005,000 100%
Never married 447,000 44%
Married to a U.S. citizen 93,000 9%
Married to a legal permanent resident (LPR) 61,000 6%
Married to non-U.S. citizen/non-LPR 201,000 20%
Divorced, separated, widowed 203,000 20%
Education and Language Estimate % of Total
School Enrollment of Children & Youth
Population age 3-17 79,000 100%
Enrolled 73,000 92%
Not enrolled 6,000 8%
Population age 3-12 29,000 100%
Enrolled 26,000 89%
Not enrolled 3,000 11%
Population age 13-17 50,000 100%
Enrolled 47,000 94%
Not enrolled 3,000 6%
Population age 18-24 100,000 100%
Enrolled 39,000 39%
Not enrolled 60,000 61%
Educational Attainment of Adults
Population age 25+ 869,000 100%
Grade 0-5 133,000 15%
Grade 6-8 178,000 21%
Grade 9-12 161,000 18%
High school diploma or GED 195,000 22%
Some college or associate’s degree 109,000 13%
Bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree 92,000 11%
English Proficiency
Population age 5+ 1,045,000 100%
Speak only English 53,000 5%
Speak English "very well" 246,000 24%
Speak English "well" 207,000 20%
Speak English "not well"/"not at all" 540,000 52%
Top 5 Languages Spoken at Home
Population age 5+ 1,045,000 100%
Spanish 845,000 81%
English 53,000 5%
Chinese 37,000 4%
Tagalog 32,000 3%
Korean 23,000 2%
Workforce Estimate % of Total
Labor Force Participation
Civilian population age 16+ 994,000 100%
Employed 656,000 66%
Unemployed 58,000 6%
Not in the labor force 281,000 28%
Top Industries of Employment
Civilian employed population age 16+ 656,000 100%
Manufacturing 123,000 19%
Accommodation & food services, arts, entertainment, & recreation 115,000 18%
Construction 89,000 14%
Professional, scientific, management, administrative, & waste management services 88,000 13%
Retail trade 79,000 12%
Economics Estimate % of Total
Family Income
Below 50% of the poverty level 118,000 11%
50-99% of the poverty level 191,000 18%
100-149% of the poverty level 198,000 19%
150-199% of the poverty level 169,000 16%
At or above 200% of the poverty level 374,000 36%
Access to Health Insurance
Uninsured 527,000 50%
Home Ownership
Homeowner** 247,000 24%

** A homeowner here is an unauthorized immigrant residing in a home that they own rather than rent.

Source: Migration Policy Institute analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data from the pooled 2012-16 American Community Survey (ACS) and the 2008 Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), drawing on a methodology developed in consultation with James Bachmeier of Temple University and Jennifer Van Hook of The Pennsylvania State University, Population Research Institute.




Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way, Mural, 1862
Also see: Immigration has long been a hot issue in California.