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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 2,610,000 unauthorized immigrants resided in California in 2018, compared to 2.76 million in 2015, 2.5 million in 2000, and 1.5 million in 1990. This number represents 22.9 percent of the entire unauthorized immigrant population estimated to reside in the United States (11.39 million in 2018). About 6.6 percent of California's population was estimated to be unauthorized immigrants, with a majority (about 50 percent) from Mexico. Across the entire United States, an estimated 5.4 million unauthorized immigrants were from Mexico, up from 4.7 million in 2000.

A little more recently, the Migration Policy Institute estimated, that in 2019, the unauthorized immigrant population of California was 2,739,000. This is the largest such population in any U.S. state, surpassing next-ranked Texas by almost one million additional persons.

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 U.S. counties. The Migration Policy Institute, however, estimates the number specifically in Los Angeles County in 2019 to be 951,000 (see table below), almost 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 estimated to be 600,000. In Harris County, Texas (Houston), the number is 481,000. In Dallas County, Texas (Dallas), it is 293,000. In Cook County, Illinois (Chicago), it is 257,000. In Miami Dade-Monroe Counties, Florida (Miami), it is 198,000.

The Migration Policy Institute estimated that, in 2016, the unauthorized immigrant population in Los Angeles County was 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 Los Angeles County, in 2016, 80 percent of undocumented persons were Latino, 10 percent were Asian or Pacific Islander, and 3 percent were white. It further reported that 68 percent of undocumented immigrants had lived in the United States for more than 10 years and that 852,000 U.S. citizen Angelenos and 273,000 legal permanent resident Angelenos lived with an undocumented family member. Combined with an estimated 886,000 Angelenos who were undocumented, that came to about 1 in 5 residents of Los Angeles County who were either undocumented or living with a family member who was undocumented.


* 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

2019 Estimates

Demographics Estimate % of Total
Unauthorized Population 951,000 100%
Top Countries of Birth
Mexico 501,000 53%
El Salvador 112,000 12%
Guatemala 108,000 11%
Philippines 48,000 5%
China 42,000 4%
Regions of Birth
Mexico & Central America 754,000 79%
Caribbean - -
South America 19,000 2%
Europe, Canada, Oceania 21,000 2%
Asia 151,000 16%
Africa 6,000 1%
Years of U.S. Residence
Under 5 135,000 14%
5-9 115,000 12%
10-14 168,000 18%
15-19 206,000 22%
20+ 326,000 34%
Age
Under 16 36,000 4%
16-24 110,000 12%
25-34 233,000 24%
35-44 264,000 28%
45-54 198,000 21%
55+ 110,000 12%
Gender
Female 449,000 47%
Family Relationships Estimate % of Total
Parental Status
Population age 15+ 920,000 100%
Reside with at least one U.S.-citizen child under 18 280,000 30%
Reside with noncitizen children only under 18 71,000 8%
Reside with no children 569,000 62%
Marital Status
Population age 15+ 920,000 100%
Never married 395,000 43%
Married to a U.S. citizen 95,000 10%
Married to a legal permanent resident (LPR) 52,000 6%
Married to non-U.S. citizen/non-LPR 234,000 25%
Divorced, separated, widowed 144,000 16%
Education and Language Estimate % of Total
School Enrollment of Children & Youth
Population age 3-17 45,000 100%
Enrolled 40,000 90%
Not enrolled 5,000 10%
Population age 3-12 21,000 100%
Enrolled 18,000 86%
Not enrolled 3,000 14%
Population age 13-17 24,000 100%
Enrolled 23,000 93%
Not enrolled - -
Population age 18-24 98,000 100%
Enrolled 44,000 45%
Not enrolled 54,000 55%
Educational Attainment of Adults
Population age 25+ 805,000 100%
Grade 0-5 143,000 18%
Grade 6-8 147,000 18%
Grade 9-12 136,000 17%
High school diploma or GED 180,000 22%
Some college or associate’s degree 92,000 11%
Bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree 107,000 13%
English Proficiency
Population age 5+ 945,000 100%
Speak only English 40,000 4%
Speak English "very well" 213,000 23%
Speak English "well" 201,000 21%
Speak English "not well"/"not at all" 491,000 52%
Top 5 Languages Spoken at Home
Population age 5+ 945,000 100%
Spanish 747,000 79%
English 42,000 4%
Chinese 41,000 4%
Tagalog 40,000 4%
Korean 28,000 3%
Workforce Estimate % of Total
Labor Force Participation
Civilian population age 16+ 915,000 100%
Employed 601,000 66%
Unemployed 42,000 5%
Not in the labor force 272,000 30%
Top Industries of Employment
Civilian employed population age 16+ 601,000 100%
Manufacturing 94,000 16%
Accommodation & food services, arts, entertainment, & recreation 93,000 15%
Construction 87,000 14%
Professional, scientific, management, administrative, & waste management services 76,000 13%
Other services (except public administration) 61,000 10%
Economics Estimate % of Total
Family Income
Below 50% of the poverty level 102,000 11%
50-99% of the poverty level 149,000 16%
100-149% of the poverty level 168,000 18%
150-199% of the poverty level 151,000 16%
At or above 200% of the poverty level 382,000 40%
Access to Health Insurance
Uninsured 407,000 43%
Home Ownership
Homeowner** 159,000 17%

** 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 2015-19 American Community Survey (ACS) and the 2008 Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), weighted to 2019 unauthorized immigrant population estimates provided by Jennifer Van Hook of Pennsylvania State University.




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