Immigration Facts
Summary Demographic State Data (and Source)
Population (2012 CB est.) 38,041,430
Population (2000 CB est.) 33,871,648
Foreign-Born Population (2012 CB est.) 10,300,832
Foreign-Born Population (2000 CB est.) 8,864,255
Share Foreign-Born (2012) 27.1 %
Share Foreign-Born (2000) 24%
Naturalized U.S. Citizens (2012 CB est.): 4,899,628
Share Naturalized (2012) 47.6 %
Legal Immigrant Admission (DHS 2001 – 2012) 2,403,079
Refugee Admission (HHS 2000 – 2012) 161,419
Illegal Alien Population (2010 FAIR est.) 2,635,000
Costs of Illegal Aliens (2009 FAIR) $21,755,953,468
Projected 2050 Population (2006 FAIR) 70,146,000

State Population

According to the Census Bureau, the population of California in 2012 was 38,041,430 residents.

Between 2000 (population 33,871,648) and 2012, the state's average annual population change was 340,390 residents. That was an annual average change of 1.0 percent. The comparable national annual rate of change was 0.9 percent.

Between 1990 (population 29,760,021) and 2000, the state's annual average population change was 411,163 residents. The annual average rate of change was 1.3 percent compared to the national rate of change of 1.2 percent.

Foreign-Born Population

According to the Census Bureau the foreign-born population of California was about 10,300,832 persons in 2012. This estimate meant a foreign-born population share of 27.1 percent. The chart above shows the long-term change in the state's foreign-born population based on Census Bureau data.

Foreign-Born Change

Between 2000 and 2012 the Census Bureau estimate indicates an average annual rate of change in the foreign-born population of about 117,272 people, compared to the state's annual average population change of about 340,390  people. That is a 34.5  percent share of the state's population change (not including the children born in the United States to illegal aliens). The foreign-born population grew by 16.2 percent between 2000 and 2012.

Immigration also contributes to population growth through the U.S.-born children of immigrants. Nationally the share of births to the foreign-born is about double their share of the population. A 54.2 percent share of the state's current births is large enough to account for about 281,665 births a year. Combining the average increase in the foreign-born population and estimated immigrant births suggests that immigration may account for about 398,935 persons added to the state's population annually, i.e., nearly 117.2 percent of the state's overall population increase.

As of 2012 about 32.0 percent of California's foreign-born population had arrived in the state since 2000. This compares with the national average 40.9 percent. In 2000, 36.9 percent of the state's foreign-born population that had arrived since the previous Census.

Foreign-Born Characteristics

An indicator of the change in California's immigrant population may be seen in data on the share of the population over five years of age that speaks a language other than English at home. Between 2000 and 2012, the share of non-English speakers changed from 39.5 percent to 44.3 percent. In 2000, 50.6 percent of those persons in also said they spoke English less than very well. In the 2012 estimate, the share was 42.9 percent that spoke English less than very well. In 2012 Spanish speakers were 65.5 percent of those who spoke other than English at home, and 66.0 percent of those who spoke English less than very well.

The chart above shows the regional composition of the state's foreign-born population and how it has changed from between 2000 and 2012.


Census Bureau data in 2012 indicate that 4,899,628 residents of California, or 47.6 percent of the foreign-born population in California, were naturalized U.S. citizens, compared to 3,473,266 residents, or 39.2 percent, in 2000.

Nationally, 40.3 percent of the foreign-born population was naturalized in 2000, and 45.8 percent in 2012.

Net International Migration (NIM)

Data from the Current Population Survey (CPS), the Census Bureau estimated that between 2000 and 2012, the change in California's population resulting from net international migration has been about 319,420 people. It was 46.7 percent of total change (not including the children born to the immigrants after their arrival in the United States). 1   The remainder was due to net domestic migration and natural change (births minus deaths).


  1. A negative percentage results when there was an overall population decrease. A percentage greater than 100 percent results when domestic migration is negative, i.e, a net loss from interstate migration.

Immigrant Admissions

Recent "green card" recipients who intend to reside in California were 206 percent above admissions just after adoption of the current immigration system in 1965. During the 1965 to 1969 period, annual admissions averaged about 70,690 persons. During the most recent five years, annual admissions averaged about 216,396 persons. Immigrant admissions data are from the Yearbook of Immigration Statistics.

The chart above shows recent immigrant admissions and the cumulative amount of immigrant admissions since FY'65. The cumulative total of immigrant admissions to California between fiscal years 1965 and 2012 has been 9,407,200 persons.

The data for fiscal years 1989-91 were artificially raised by the inclusion of former illegal aliens who were amnestied in 1986. According to INS data (1991) the number of amnesty applicants from California was 1,623,773 (955,875 pre-1982 residents and 667,898 agricultural workers). These data were published by the Immigration and Naturalization Service and reported in "Report on the Legalized Alien Population," March 1992.

Admissions by Nationality: FY'96 - FY'05

The table below furnishes INS data by nationality on the immigrants who were admitted for residence in California between 1996 and 2005.

The INS data are for nationals of the countries with the largest number of immigrants admitted or adjusted to legal residence each year since 1996. The absence of data means that the total number of admissions to the United States by nationals of that country was not enough to merit detailed reporting in that year.

The Department of Homeland Security website has detailed data on immigrant admissions since FY'03 by year and by source country and intended state of residence. (See then select the desired year, click Legal Permanent Residents, data and then select "supplemental table 1."

Chart of Immigrant Admission by Fiscal Year


California has received 161,419 refugees over the most recent ten fiscal years including 5,173 refugees in fiscal year 2012. The chart above shows the annual admissions over the last ten years and the cumulative total of those admissions using data complied by the Office of Refugee Resettlement in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The U.S. government program that distributes new refugees among the states is the only immigration program that provides state governments the opportunity to participate in deciding how many newcomers will come to that state each year.

Illegal Aliens

California Fiscal Costs
Due to Illegal Aliens
           ($M) (Pct.)
K-12 educ. $12,347.70 48.9%
LEP educ. $2,083.70 8.2%
Medicaid+ $3,954.00 15.6%
SCHIP $62.20 0.2%
Justice $4,436.50 17.6%
Welfare+ $791.60 3.1%
General $1,597.80 6.3%
Total $25,273.50  
Tax receipts $3,450.60  
Net Cost $21,822.60  
Source: "The State Cost Studies"

FAIR Estimate - FAIR estimates the illegal alien population of California as of 2010 was about 2,635,000 persons. This is part of an overall estimate of the U.S. illegal alien population of about 11,900,000 persons.

DHS Estimate - The current estimate by DHS of the illegal alien population in California was 2,820,000 in 2012. The DHS estimate is available for only the 10 states with the largest illegal alien populations. The DHS estimate of the national illegal alien population in 2012 was 11,430,000.

Other Estimates - The Pew Hispanic Center estimates the illegal alien population of the state at 2,550,000 as of 2010.

Fiscal Cost of Illegal Aliens

FAIR's most recent estimate of the cost outlays due to illegal immigration and tax receipts from illegal aliens in California are as shown on the right:

Limited English Proficiency Students

Data are not available nationally on immigrant students (either legally or illegally resident in the United States) who are enrolled in primary and secondary schools (K-12). However, a large majority of these students enrolled in Limited English Proficiency/English Language Learning (LEP/ELL) instruction programs may be assumed to be children of either legal or illegal immigrants with a predominance of children of illegal aliens.

In California, LEP public school enrollment in 2010 ( 1,467,989) was 99.2 percent of LEP enrollment a decade earlier. By contrast, overall K-12 enrollment in the state was 105.2 percent of enrollment a decade earlier.

Population Projection

FAIR projected California's population in 2050 likely would be between 65,659,000 million and 70,146,000 million with current levels of immigration. Alternatively, the population could be lower (45,685,000) if immigration were reduced to a level where it balanced the number of U.S. residents leaving to reside outside of the United states, i.e., zero-net immigration. See "Projecting the U.S. Population to 2050: Four Immigration Scenarios," FAIR 2006.

Foreign Students

Data compiled by the Institute of International Education (IIE) record the number of foreign students attending post-secondary school in California as 111,379 in 2013.

The chart above illustrates the change in the number of foreign students attending school in California since 1997.

For information on foreign student issues see: Foreign Students in the United States.

Immigration Impact

Sanctuary Policies


Assembly Bill 4 (October 5, 2013)

  • Law enforcement may not comply with an ICE detainer unless the detainee: (1) has been convicted of specific serious or violent felony; (2) has been convicted of a felony punishable by imprisonment; (3) has been convicted in the past 5 years of a misdemeanor for a crime that could have been punishable either as a misdemeanor or a felony, (specifically listed crimes include child abuse, bribery, gang-related offenses or driving under the influence, but only for a conviction that is a felony); (4) is a registrant in the California Sex and Arson Registry; (5) has been arrested on suspicion of a serious or violent felony and a magistrate has made a finding that there is probable cause to hold the person for that charge; or (6) has been convicted of certain federal aggravated felonies or is subject to a federal felony arrest warrant. Even then, AB 4 gives state and local law enforcement officials the option of not complying with an ICE detainer request.

Information Bulletin (December 4, 2012)

  • California Attorney General Kamala Harris issued an information bulletin stating that local agencies have no obligation to honor detainers issued by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

City or County


Resolution No. 63, 711-NS (May 22, 2007)

  • “No department, agency, commission, officer or employee of Berkeley shall use any City funds or resources to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration law or to gather or disseminate immigration status of individuals in the city of Berkeley unless such assistance is required by federal or state statute, regulation or court decision.”

Amicus Brief (March 23, 2012)

  • Berkeley joined an amicus curiae brief that urged the Supreme Court to strike down provisions of Arizona’s SB 1070.


News Article: Council Declares City an Illegal Migrant Haven (March 24, 2006)

  • “Council members this week approved a resolution condemning a proposed federal crackdown on illegal immigration and declared Coachella a ‘safe, healthy and dignified place to live for its immigrant communities, regardless of immigration status.”
  • “Under the resolution, the city will not use local police to enforce immigration law, said Mayor Jesse Villarreal.”


Resolution 06-**** (April 18, 2006)

City Council Meeting Minutes (April 18, 2006)

  • Urges Congress and the President to oppose HR 4437

East Palo Alto

Resolution No. 2673 (March 7, 2008)

  • Directs the police department and all city departments to refrain from acting as agents of ICE in any program or operation that targets individuals based solely on their immigration status

Garden Grove

Garden Grove Police Department General Order No. 17.3: Immigration Violations (June 15, 2005)

  • “The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has primary jurisdiction for enforcement of the provisions of Title 8, U.S. Code dealing with illegal entry, etc. When members of the Garden Grove Police Department are requested by the ICE to provide immediate assistance, or when suspected criminal violations are discovered as a result of any investigation, based upon probable cause...members of the Garden Grove Police Department may assist in the enforcement of federal immigration laws….”
  • “Members of the Garden Grove Police Department shall not independently conduct sweeps or other concentrated efforts to detain suspected undocumented aliens….”

Los Angeles

Special Order 40 (November 27, 1979)

  • “…it is the policy of the Los Angeles Police Department that undocumented alien status in itself is not a matter for police action.”
  • Officers shall not initiate police action with the objective of discovering the alien status of a person.”
  • “Officers shall not arrest nor book persons for violation of Title 8 Section 1325 of the United States Immigration Code (Illegal Entry).”

Amicus Brief (March 23, 2012)

  • Los Angeles joined an amicus curiae brief that urged the Supreme Court to strike down provisions of Arizona’s SB 1070.

Revision of Jail Operations Manuel Section 2/500 Immigration Detainer Processing (November 30, 2012) [pg. 8-10]

Board of Police Commissioners Meeting Agenda (December 11, 2012)

Article: Police Commission eases LAPD's illegal immigrant policy (December 11, 2012)

  • “When notified by ICE (via a IDNA) that an arrestee who's detention is sought by their agency for their purpose, is in the Department's custody, Jail Division (JD) personnel shall determine if the IDNA meets the Department's revised criteria for honoring IDNAs. Jail personnel will honor all IDNAs issued by ICE for arrestees with any of the following criteria…” (1) “An open felony charge or a previous felony conviction; or…” (2) “A misdemeanor charge with a bail amount of $5,000 or more, or a Vehicle Code (VC) violation with a bail amount of $2,500 or more; or…” (3) “Documented gang members; or…” (4) An open charge for any of the following: 538d, e, or g — Impersonating a peace, fire and/or public officer or employee…484(a) — Theft of property under 400 dollars…653b(b) — Sex offender loitering on school grounds with a prior conviction…653c — Sex offender on grounds of day, elder care facility w/o registering with a prior conviction…21200.5 — Bicyclist riding under the influence… 21221.5 — Misdemeanor operating a motor scooter under the influence…21651(c) - Wrong way driving resulting in injury or death…38317 — Reckless driving of an off-road vehicle causing injury…655(a) or (b) — Negligent or reckless vessel operation or under the influence…656.2 — Vessel in accident resulting in personal injury…656.3 — Vessel in accident resulting in death or disappearance.”
  • “In all other cases, the revised Department procedures prohibit honoring IDNAs for, arrestees with open misdemeanor charges with bails of $4,999 or less, or a Vehicle Code violation bail of $2,499 or less….”


News Article: Welcome to Maywood, Where Roads Open Up for Immigrants (March 21, 2006)

  • “First, the city eliminated the Police Department’s traffic division after complaints that officers unfairly targeted illegal immigrants. Then it made it much more difficult for police to tow cars whose owners didn’t have driver’s licenses, a practice that affected mostly undocumented people who could not obtain licenses.”
  • “In January, the City Council passed a resolution opposing a proposed federal law that would criminalize illegal immigration and make local police departments enforce immigration law.”

Monterey County

Amicus Brief (March 23, 2012)

  • “Monterey County joined an amicus curiae brief that urged the Supreme Court to strike down provisions of Arizona’s SB 1070.


Resolution No. 81310 (May 20, 2008)

  • References Resolution No. 63950 C.M.S., which made Oakland a City of Refuge on July 8, 1986
  • References Resolution No. 80584 C.M.S., which affirmed Oakland’s status as a City of Refuge, and opposes immigration raids.
  • “…the Oakland City Council denounces the ICE practice of conducting immigration raids or surveillance at or near school campuses and calls upon the federal government to impose a moratorium on these tactics in order to protect the school environment and the psychological well being of children.”
  • “…the Oakland City Council reaffirms and declares that Oakland is a City of Refuge for immigrants from all countries.”

Amicus Brief (March 23, 2012)

  • Oakland joined an amicus curiae brief that urged the Supreme Court to strike down provisions of Arizona’s SB 1070.

Palo Alto

Amicus Brief (March 23, 2012)

  • Palo Alto joined an amicus curiae brief that urged the Supreme Court to strike down provisions of Arizona’s SB 1070.


Resolution 11-07 (February 6, 2007)

  • “...the City of Richmond reaffirms the terms of ordinance No. 20-90 ordering all officers and employees of this City not to inform, assist or cooperate with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)...without the specific authorization of the Richmond City Manager or the Chief of Police.”
  • Ordinance 20-90 (cited in Resolution 11-07): affirms the City’s desire to foster an atmosphere of trust and cooperation between the Richmond Police Department and all residents of the City of Richmond

Ordinance 16-11 (July 19, 2011)

  • Grants municipal ID cards to anyone who establishes proof of residency, which requires presence in the City of Richmond for fifteen continuous days, and identity through specified documents, including foreign forms of identification

San Diego

Resolution No. R-305813 (May 11, 2010)

  • Urges Arizona to repeal the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (SB 1070), which would require “…all local law enforcement to investigate a person’s immigration status when there is a reasonable suspicion that the person is in the Country unlawfully, regardless of whether that person is suspected of a crime….”

San Francisco (City & County)

Ordinance No. 12-h (October 24, 1989)

  • Establishes the City and County of San Francisco as a City and County of Refuge
  • Prohibits the use of City funds or resources to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration law or to gather or disseminate information regarding the immigration status of individuals in the City and County of San Francisco unless such assistance is required by federal or State statute, regulation or court decision (except in situations where an individual has committed a felony)

Executive Directive No. 07-01 (March 1, 2007)

  • “No department, agency, commission, officer or employee of the City and County of San Francisco may assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigation, detention or arrest proceedings unless such assistance is specifically required by federal law.”
  • “No department, agency, commission, officer or employee of the City and County of San Francisco may require information about or disseminate information regarding the immigration status of an individual when providing services or benefits by the City or County of San Francisco except as specifically required by federal law.”

Amicus Brief (March 23, 2012)

  • San Francisco City and County joined an amicus curiae brief that urged the Supreme Court to strike down provisions of Arizona’s SB 1070.

Administrative Code, Chapter 121, Section 121.3: Restrictions on Law Enforcement Officials (October 1, 2013)

  • “…A law enforcement official shall not detain an individual on the basis of a civil immigration detainer after that individual becomes eligible for release from custody.”
  • “Law enforcement officials may continue to detain an individual in response to a civil immigration detainer for up to forty-eight (48) hours after that individual becomes eligible for release if the individual meets both of the following criteria: (1) The individual has been Convicted of a Violent Felony in the seven years immediately prior to the date of the civil immigration detainer; and (2) A magistrate has determined that there is probable cause to believe the individual is guilty of a Violent Felony and has ordered the individual to answer to the same pursuant to Penal Code Section 872. In determining whether to detain…law enforcement officials shall consider evidence of the individual’s rehabilitation and evaluate whether the individual poses a public safety risk.”

San Jose

Resolution No. 73677 (March 6, 2007)

  • Ensures that San Jose officers will not arrest persons merely for their unlawful presence in the U.S.
  • Condemns ICE raids that affect law-abiding illegal immigrants

Police Department Duty Manual Section L7911 (March 29, 2007)

  • “The responsibility for enforcement of civil immigration laws rests with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”
  • “…members of the Police Department will not initiate police action where the primary objective is to discover that the person is an alien (non-United States citizen) or to discover the status of the person under civil immigration laws....At the same time, the Department will continue to cooperate with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in matters involving serious crimes, the protection of public safety, and as required by statute, federal regulation, court decision or a legally-binding agreement.”
  • “Officers will not detain or question a person not suspected of a State felony or State or local misdemeanor or infraction violation solely on the basis of the person’s citizenship or status under civil immigration laws...” or “…for the purposes of discovering either the person’s citizenship or status under civil immigration laws.”

Amicus Brief (March 23, 2012)

  • San Jose joined an amicus curiae brief that urged the Supreme Court to strike down provisions of Arizona’s SB 1070.

San Leandro

Amicus Brief (March 23, 2012)

  • San Leandro joined an amicus curiae brief that urged the Supreme Court to strike down provisions of Arizona’s SB 1070.

San Mateo County

Amicus Brief (March 23, 2012)

  • San Mateo County joined an amicus curiae brief that urged the Supreme Court to strike down provisions of Arizona’s SB 1070.

San Rafael

Resolution No. 11418 (September 23, 2003)

  • Affirming “…policy and practice not to make arrests for immigration violations because of the lack of authority and to do so would threaten the Police Department’s ability to interact constructively with residents….”
  • “…opposes any amendments to the Patriot Act or other federal regulations that would force local law enforcement to undertake the enforcement of federal immigration law.”

Santa Clara County

Press Release: “Federal Officials Say They Will Continue Operating the Secure Communities Program in the County’s Jail Against the County’s Will” (November 10, 2010)

  • “‘Our Board has serious concerns about this program [Secure Communities]. Contrary to how ICE has described the program, it does not target only violent, criminal aliens. Instead, people with no criminal records are being apprehended and deported for minor offenses like traffic violations,’ said Supervisor George Shirakawa, Chair of the Board’s Public Safety and Justice Committee. ‘This program makes innocent people afraid of law enforcement. Our County does not want to be at the forefront of new immigration enforcement programs that will make us lose our residents’ trust.’”

3.54 Civil Immigration Detainer Requests (October 18, 2011)

  • Santa Clara County only complies with civil immigration detainers where there is a written agreement with the federal government providing for reimbursement for all costs associated with detainer.
  • “…the County will exercise its discretion to honor the request if one or more of the following apply: (1) The individual is convicted of a serious or violent felony offense for which he or she is currently in custody…” and/or “(2) The individual has been convicted of a serious or violent felony within 10 years of the request, or was released after having served a sentence for a serious or violent felony within 5 years of the request, whichever is later.”

Amicus Brief (March 23, 2012)

  • Santa Clara County joined an amicus curiae brief that urged the Supreme Court to strike down provisions of Arizona’s SB 1070.

Sonoma County

Sheriff’s Dep’t Law Enforcement Division: Section 428 -Immigration Violations (October 2006)

  • “The immigration status of individuals alone is not a matter for law enforcement action.”
  • “If a Deputy believes that an individual taken into custody for a felony is also an undocumented alien, the ICE may be informed by the arresting Deputy so that they may consider placing an ‘immigration hold’ on the individual.”

Resolution by Commission on Human Rights (February 22, 2011)

  • “…Except when (1) Mandated by state or federal law, (2) Assisting with the removal of aliens convicted of serious or violent felonies, or (3) Assisting with the investigation and prosecution of persons reasonably suspected of involvement in human trafficking; County resources, including human resources, technology, facilities, equipment, and funds, shall not be used in assisting in the enforcement of Federal immigration law.”

Environmental and Quality of Life Profile

Traffic: Vehicle traffic on California highways increased by 22 percent between 1990 and 2008, and 68 percent of the state’s major urban highways are congested. Unfortunately, the state’s budget has been unable to keep up with increased traffic. The state was projected to face a $40 billion highway budget shortfall over the 2009-2018 period, not to mention an even larger annual shortfall for the public transportation system. As a result, California’s already-crowded roads are deteriorating in condition. Over one-third (35%) of California roadways were rated as being in poor condition in 2009, defined as roads that "have significant rutting, potholes or other visible signs of deterioration and typically need to be resurfaced or reconstructed." This was the second-worst rating in the nation. Additionally, 29 percent of the state’s bridges are structurally deficient or not up to current design standards.1

The cost of additional vehicle maintenance and operating costs due to poor road conditions were pegged at $590 annually in 2009, nearly double the national average. This meant that as California’s road system struggles to keep up with needed expansion and repair, motorists pay a total of $13.5 billion extra each year due to the poor condition of its roads.2

California is home to four of the ten most congested urban areas in the U.S. in terms of lost time and wasted fuel. Los Angeles residents had the worst commute in the country the average traveler spent 70 extra hours in traffic and wasted 53 gallons of fuel due to congestion in 2007. In the San Francisco and Oakland area, the average commuter lost 55 hours and 40 gallons of fuel to congestion. In San Jose, commuters lost an estimated 53 hours and 37 gallons of fuel, and in San Diego, the toll was 52 hours and 40 gallons of fuel. Nationwide, the amount of travel in urban areas that was not congested dropped from 74 percent in 1982 to 45 percent in 2007. Prevalence of severe congestion nearly tripled, and the peak period of work-related congestion dubbed "rush hour" has more than doubled in length since 1982.3

Traffic congestion burdens residents across the state. Sacramento commuters wasted 39 hours and 28 gallons of fuel due to congestion in 2007. Riverside-San Bernardino travelers lost 44 hours and 35 gallons. In Oxnard-Ventura, the average commuter wasted 38 hours and 27 gallons of fuel. Fresno commuters lost 20 hours and 13 gallons, and in Bakersfield, the annual wait per commuter was 12 hours. Commuters in the Indio-Cathedral City-Palm Springs area spent 13 extra hours and 8 extra gallons of gas due to congestion.4 Lancaster-Palmdale commuters experienced a 6-hour delay. About 18 percent of California commuters had a commute of 45 minutes or longer in 2008.5 In total, traffic congestion cost California commuters about $18.3 billion in time and fuel in 2007, $10.3 billion of which came from the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana area.6

In 2002, the state's official forecast predicted that the number of miles driven on Los Angeles and Orange County roads will increase 40 percent by 2020. In San Bernardino County, driving will grow 86 percent by 2020, but officials say they can afford just 10 percent more highway capacity. In Sacramento, even with $15 billion in planned road improvements, congestion will increase by 400 percent in the next 20 years.7 In the San Fernando Valley area, the average morning rush-hour speed of 31 mph is expected to fall to 16 mph by 2025.8

Urban Sprawl: Population growth has been the number one factor in California's relentless urban sprawl. Overall, 95 percent of the total sprawl in California from 1970-1990 was a result of population growth. Despite decreases in per capita land consumption, sprawl consumed another 1,670 square miles in the state during this time period.9

On average, the older urbanized areas of California had per capita land consumption actually decline by 8 percent from 1970 to 1990. Despite that, the average older area sprawled by 60 percent over these twenty years. The average new Urbanized Area also reduced the amount of land per resident by 11 percent, while the total land area expanded by 40 percent over a single decade.10 150.4 square miles of additional land were consumed by urban sprawl in the San Bernardino-Riverside metropolitan area, and 100 percent of that sprawl was attributable to population increase. In the Sacramento sprawl consumed an additional 89.7 square miles and population increase accounted for 100 percent of the increase. 193.1 square miles of growth was 77.9 percent attributable in the San Francisco-Oakland area, 61.2 square miles of growth was 100 percent attributable to population growth in San Jose, and 393.8 square miles of growth was 100 percent attributable to population growth.11 These trends continue today.

Los Angeles, known as the "sultan of sprawl," has actually begun to earn honors for its new trend toward high-density living, with 5,801 residents per square mile in 1990 as compared to 5,313 residents per square mile in 1970.12 However, it has still managed to consume an additional 394 square miles in the same period, a fact which shows that the massive growth of this city is fully due to population growth. This trend continues as the city faces a population increase of nearly 5 percent per year.

By 2035, nearly 2 million more people are projected to live in the San Francisco Bay area, putting 401,500 acres of greenbelt lands at risk of development.13 Connected by extensive highway systems, the Silicon Valley faces sprawl so extensive that even growth-mongers are proposing regulations that require developments to be built with at least 9 homes per acre on vacant land and 25 homes per acre on redeveloped sites. Officials predict that the region will otherwise only meet a maximum of 25 percent of future demand for new homes from the swelling population.14

Transportation is California's largest source of greenhouse pollution, with the sector accounting for 40 percent of emissions.15 By 2050, Californians may drive as many as 3.7 trillion additional miles due to sprawl, wasting 140 billion gallons of gasoline as a result.16 California is also one of the nation’s leaders in agriculture, an important role that sprawling cities threatened to destroy. Statewide, projections for the year 2020 show that more than fourteen million acres of the state's high quality farmland will have disappeared due to urban sprawl.17

Disappearing open space: Population growth increases housing needs and generally causes greater development of open space and sprawl. The amount of developed land in California increased by 2,091,000 acres from 1982 to 2007, growing at a pace of 79,190 acres per year over the last ten years of that period.18 Although California was once home to five million acres of wetlands, today only 454,000 acres survive — a loss of over 90 percent.19 The total number of housing units in California increased by over one million units during the 1990s.20 An area equivalent to one and a half times the size of Rhode Island was paved over in California during that period.21

As California’s population continues to expand, the space crunch will grow even more severe. In 2001, the California Department of Housing and Community Development found that Los Angeles and Orange Counties do not have a sufficient amount of developable land in order to accommodate population growth in the next 20 years.22 To meet the needs of its expanding population, California will need 4.3 million more housing units by 2020, says the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, guaranteeing that open space will continue to vanish.23

Farmland Loss: The Central Valley, which provides half of all fruits and vegetables to America, is the most threatened farm region in the country due to its massive population increase, according to American Farmland Trust. In the past 20 years, over two million people have moved to the region, shrinking cropland by 500,000 acres.24 The valley's current population of 5.5 million is expected to grow to 12.5 million by 2040, reducing farmland by another one million to 2.5 million acres.25

Crowded housing: An estimated 944,123 of California’s housing units were classified as crowded in 2008, defined as units with more than one occupant per room. This amounted to 7.8 percent of the state’s housing units. In addition, 303,138 units were severely crowded, with at least 1.5 occupants per room. The state’s rate of crowded housing more than doubles the national average and is second only to Hawaii.26 Nationally, crowded housing rates are driven upward by immigration, where 27 percent of children in immigrant families live in crowded housing compared to 9 percent of children with native-born parents. In California, the shares are 38 percent of children in immigrant families are in crowded housing compared to 15 percent of those in native-headed households.27

California is home to many of the most crowded cities in the nation. Five of the ten most crowded cities with more than 65,000 people are in California, and 21 of the top 50.28

Lack of affordable housing: Every year, California builds about 140,000 new places for people to live. Every year, that's 80,000 short, say state housing officials. Only one in three Californians can afford a median-priced home of more than $250,000. The state's Department of Housing and Community Development warns of extreme shortages in years ahead.29

Poverty: California’s immigrants are more likely to be poor than their native-born counterparts. In 2007, 14.5 percent of foreign-born households were below the poverty line, compared to 11.6 percent of native households. An additional 13.4 percent of the foreign-born and 8.4 percent of native households were not in poverty but had incomes less than 1.5 times the poverty level.30 Children in immigrant families in California are almost twice as likely to be in poverty as their native counterparts — 30.5 percent of children in immigrant families were poor in 2006, compared to 16.5 percent of children with native parents.31

Poverty increased more in California than anywhere else in the country in the 1990s. Most of the new pockets of poverty were in areas with large immigrant populations.32 A RAND report finds: "A declining demand for low-skill workers combined with a continuing influx of low-skill immigrants has increased competition for low-skill jobs within the state and has hurt the earnings of some low-skill workers. It has also contributed to a growing disparity between the wages of foreign- and native-born workers."33 The plentiful supply of low-wage immigrant labor has lowered average incomes overall, says a labor specialist with the Public Policy Institute of California.34 Southern California's poverty is extending to suburbs long seen as refuges from urban problems. Riverside County saw a 63 percent rise in poverty and San Bernardino County a 51 percent increase.35

In Los Angeles, where more than 40 percent of residents were born in another country, 22 percent live at the poverty level, up from 19 percent a decade earlier. Nearly one-third of the city's residents say they can't speak English "very well." One in ten adults in the region has six years of education or less, 41 and 19 percent of those over age 24 have less than a ninth-grade education.36

Health Care: In 1994's Proposition 187 California voters banned the use of tax money to provide non-emergency care to illegal aliens, but a U.S. District Judge overturned the ballot proposition in 1999. California now provides both legal and illegal aliens with Emergency Medicaid, pre-natal care, and nursing home care.37

As the state cuts its health care budget to try to make ends meet, the increase in uncompensated care for immigrants has forced some hospitals to reduce staff, increase rates, cut back services, and close maternity wards and trauma centers. In the last decade, 60 California emergency rooms have closed.38 California hospital losses totaled $390 million in 2001, up from $325 million in 2000 and $316 million in 1999. The crisis reaches throughout the state, with 80 percent of emergency departments reporting losses.39

One-third of the patients treated by the Los Angeles county health system each year are illegal aliens, according to county health officials. In 2002, the county spent $350 million providing health care to illegal aliens, according to the Department of Health Services. Officials said that if that money had been available, the county could have avoided the closure of 16 health clinics and possibly two hospitals, as well as cuts in services.40

Scripps Memorial Hospital in Chula Vista estimates that about one quarter of patients who are uninsured and don't pay their bills are illegal aliens. The hospital loses $7 million to $10 million in uncompensated costs.41 Regional Medical Center and Pioneers Memorial Hospital in El Centro, California lost over $1.5 million treating illegal immigrants in 2001.42

Water: Facing water shortages due to shrinking resources and raging population growth, the people of California find themselves in a quandary. "I have not seen a more serious water situation in my career, and I've been doing this 30 years," says Timothy Quinn, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies.43 His sentiment reflects a common one among California officials.

According to 2007 data, each of these newcomers consumes on average 146 gallons of water per day.44 If expected growth continues, by 2050 this will result in an increased water demand of 4.67 billion gallons of water per day. Just to meet a 15 percent increase in demand by 2030, officials say 32 billion gallons a year will have to be saved or expensively recycled — enough to cover the San Fernando Valley with a foot of water.45

Consequently, several communities are likely to face mandatory rationing in the near future. The East Bay Municipal Utility District Board of Directors has already implemented such a program, asking residential customers to use 19 percent less water than their average consumption over the last three years. All who exceed their mandated consumption will be surcharged based on their violation's extent.46

In the Los Angeles area, recent court rulings, environmental agreements and competition from other urban centers have cut flows or sharply increased costs of water from the now depleted Owens Valley and Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.47 Usage of water from the Colorado River has dropped sharply, too, as it experiences its 8th dry year of the last 9 years.48 As these natural sources continue to run dry, the price of water will continue to rise.

Persistent drought and climate change heighten the dilemma. The northern Sierra Nevada, which holds much of the state's snowpack, experienced its driest spring in more than seventy years leading to Sacramento's driest spring in recorded history. With the summer's runoff forecast less than three-fifths of normal runoff, Sacramento's summer and fall will likely be dry as well.49 The dryness the North is experiencing affects Southern California as well, where 27 million of the state’s residents reside. This year, the region will receive only 5-50 percent of the water it is entitled to from the State Water Project due to shortages in the northern part of the state.50

A book by former Illinois Senator Paul Simon, now head of the Southern Illinois Univ. Public Policy Institute, focuses on the looming shortage of potable water as population expands. The book, "Tapped Out," describes water resource shortages around the world and in the United States. California is pinpointed as one of the trouble areas. Simon writes: "Every official California water plan projects a huge gap between need and supply. California's population will grow from 31 million today to somewhere between 48 million and 60 million in less than 40 years. Symbolic of California's problems is the story of Owens Lake. Early in this century, Los Angeles-area water authorities understood that they'd face problems as the population grew, so they purchased the third-largest body of water in the state, Owens Lake. Today it is called Owens Dry Lake, because L.A. has sucked it dry." (Source: Parade Magazine, August 23, 1998)

According to a new study on the population trend on the U.S.-Mexico border by the Southwest Center for Environmental Research and Policy, the border population could double by 2020. "These population trends portend serious problems for border communities in terms of infrastructure deficits, availability of water and energy, and negative environmental impacts on water, air and natural resources," according to the report. The Center, based in San Diego, notes that already sewage from overloaded Mexican systems spills across the borders occasionally, and that the most serious looming problem may be water shortages. (Source: AP, San Diego, May 10, 1999)

Air Pollution: California's air quality is generally poor, with 15 of the 16 most ozone-polluted counties in the U.S. Some regions escape the generally poor air quality, as California also boasts several of the cleanest counties for ozone air pollution. In 2010, 36 of the 49 California counties scored by the American Lung Association on the number of high ozone days received an "F," with the other 13 receiving a "B" or an "A."51

Southern California has the worst air in the nation, and the state's children have the country's highest rates of asthma.52 In San Bernardino County, the cancer risk simply from breathing is 1,400 per million people — the EPA's standard for acceptable cancer risk is one in a million.53 If the South Coast Air Quality Management District doesn't dramatically lower pollutions levels by 2006, the EPA could impose major sanctions on the region, including billions of dollars in lost highway funds, commuter restrictions, and shortened hours of operation for industry.54

Carrying Capacity

"Despite the ravings of some racist fanatics, immigration is not a racial problem; it is a population problem. It is projected to be a principal cause of U.S. population growth. Is it "immigrant bashing" or simply common foresight to ask what would be required for a doubled or tripled or quadrupled population? What about jobs, schools, parks, housing, air quality, open space, farmland and food production, transportation and infrastructure of all kinds?... In California the most conspicuous resource in short supply is water. In drought years, this state does not have enough available water for the present population at current rates of use." Harold Gilliam, San Francisco Examiner, June 26, 1998.

Impact of Immigration on Education

Half of all children in California have at least one immigrant parent. Nearly one in ten are foreign-born themselves.55 California spends almost $2.2 billion annually to educate illegal immigrant students in grades K-12 — enough to pay the salaries of 41,764 teachers, or 14 percent of California's teachers.56

California schools are the most crowded in the nation, and classes often exceed 35 students per teacher (18 is considered ideal).57 And they will continue to grow:

Between 2000 and 2006 California's K-12 enrollment increased by over 398,000 students, and is projected to increase by an additional 161,000 students by the year 2015.58 California's student-teacher ratio of 20.8 ranks 494thin the U.S.59

Lack of space forces some students to attend class on school stages or in the gym.60 Yet the state is still adding 100,000 new students each year.61 The state Department of Education estimates that 19 new classrooms will need to be built every day, seven days a week, for the next five years.62 The number of teachers will need to be doubled within ten years, meaning that 300,000 new educators will need to be hired.63

In Los Angeles, where schools are so crowded that some have lengthened the time between classes to give students time to make their way through packed halls, crowding in the next decade is projected to become so severe that some schools will have to hold double sessions (one in the morning and one in the afternoon) and Saturday classes.64 Even if the district builds 86 new schools, all 49 existing high schools will still have to adopt year-round schedules to keep pace with enrollment increases.65

California's Class Size Reduction program calls for adding thousands of new K-3 teachers, but finding classroom space has proved impossible in some areas. Many schools have had to give up libraries, art and music classrooms, and science and computer labs to create additional space.66 The West Contra Costa school district is eliminating all sports, libraries, and counselors from its high schools to save money.67

Illegal Immigration in California

California's border counties incurred $79 million in emergency care for illegal aliens, the highest cost in the country.68 San Diego County paid $50.3 million during 1999 for criminal justice services and medical care related to illegal aliens. Imperial County spent $5.4 million on illegal aliens in 1999, according to a study on behalf of the United States-Mexico Border Counties Coalition. It costs each person living legally in San Diego and Imperial counties about $18.56 per year to pay for the costs incurred by illegal immigration.69

Urban Institute Study of Immigration and Rural California

Writing in the Summer 1998 issue of Immigration Review, Dr. Monica Heppel, Research Director of the Inter-American Institute on Migration and Labor, reviewed a 1997 Urban Institute (UI) study on Poverty Amid Prosperity: Immigration and the Changing Face of Rural California. The research study was authored by agricultural-economist Philip Martin and UI immigration researcher Michael Fix. Heppel credits Martin and Fix with clearly demonstrating that today's increased agricultural employment in rural California does not equate with lower poverty levels, but rather the reverse -- higher agricultural sector employment coincides with higher levels of unemployment and poverty. She cites the study's observation that "Traditionally, rural poverty has been combined with cyclical crises that force farms into a downward spiral from which they rarely rebound....In California today, rural poverty occurs in an environment of agricultural prosperity, in the context of a growth industry." This context, she suggests, means that traditional programs designed to alleviate rural poverty need to be rethought.

RAND 1998 Study of Immigration and California's Economy

The Rand Corporation issued a report in 1998 entitled Immigration in a Changing Economy: California's Experience. The authors were immigration researchers Kevin McCarthy and George Vernez. In general they found both positive and negative economic effects from the state's high levels of both legal and illegal immigration.

The publication was reviewed by Center for Immigration Studies researcher Steven Camarota in the summer issue of Immigration Review. Among the studies highlights identified by Camarota are the fact that even though immigrants should be credited with creating many new jobs, "...few of these jobs went to natives; overall, in fact, immigration reduces job opportunities for natives." Other findings were that immigrant settlement in California has both significantly lowered wages for high school dropouts and caused unemployment and underemployment. The skills of new immigrants are increasingly out of step with the needs of the state's economy. Overall, immigrants pay less in taxes than they consume in public services, although this varies considerably depending on the immigration category. Vernez and McCarthy conclude that much of the negative effects of current immigration could be alleviated by some changes that would pare immigration back from the current level (near one million per year) to between 300,000 to 800,000 per year.

Writing in the same issue of Immigration Review, demographer Meredith Burke explored the future implications of today's California immigrants. Because Mexican-born women accounted for about one-quarter of all births in the state in 1990, and there is a strong correlation between the educational attainment of parents and children, she speculates that the trend will be large pockets of low-productivity workers and an exacerbation of current income inequalities and increased inter-ethnic strife.


Solid Waste: California generates 1.55 tons of solid waste per capita each year.70


  1. The Road Information Program, "Future Mobility in California," December 2009.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Texas Transportation Institute, "Urban Mobility Report 2009," p 8-9, 22-24
  4. Texas Transportation Institute, "Urban Mobility Report 2009."
  5. American Community Survey, 2008 Estimates, Custom Data Table.
  6. Texas Transportation Institute, "Urban Mobility Report 2009."
  7. Jim Wasserman, "2020 Traffic Report: Growth Means More Time Behind the Wheel for Everyone," Associated Press, September 19, 2002.
  8. Lisa Mascaro, "Looming Traffic Crisis," Daily News of Los Angeles, August 4, 2002.
  9. Numbers USA, "Sprawl in California," 2008
  10. Leon Kolankiewicz and Roy Beck, "Sprawl in California: A Report on Quantifying the Role of the State’s Population Boom"
  11. Beck, Roy and Leon Kolankiewicz, "Weighing Sprawl Factors in Large U.S. Cities," NumbersUSA, March 2001.
  12. Sprawl City, "The L.A. Smart Growth Model," 2007
  13. Greenbelt Alliance, "Grow Smart Bay Area," 2009
  14. Silicon Valley Leadership Group, "Home Development Endorsement Criteria"
  15. Climate Progress, "California Targets Sprawl to Reduce C02"
  16. San Francisco Chronicle, "Cut suburban sprawl, save energy, study urges," 2010
  17. Moya K. Mason, "Has Urbanization Caused a Loss to Agricultural Land?" 2010
  18. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, "Summary Report: 2007 National Resources Inventory."
  19. "Consumption and Population: Is California Big Enough?"
  20. "Table DP-1-4, Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 2000," Census 2000, U.S. Census Bureau."Table DP-1-4, Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 1990," 1990 Census, U.S. Census Bureau.
  21. "Table 1 — Surface Area of Nonfederal and Federal Land and Water Areas, by Sate and Year," Summary Report, 1997 National Resources Inventory, revised December 2000, U.S Department of Agriculture. Between 1992 and 1997, an average of 110,000 acres were paved over each year. This is more than 170 square miles a year, or about 1,700 square miles between 1990 and 2000.
  22. Southern California Studies Center, op. cit.
  23. Martin Kasindorf, op. cit.
  24. Daniel Wood, "The Limits of Sprawl: Massive Influx of People is Pushing California Toward a Meltdown," San Jose Mercury News, March 7, 2000.
  25. Ibid.
  26. American Community Survey, Three-Year Estimates 2006-2008. Data retrieved using ACS Custom Table tool.
  27. Kids Count Data Center, which used 2008 American Community Survey Data.
  28. American Community Survey, 2008 Estimates. Data retrieved using ACS Custom Table tool.
  29. Leonel Sanchez, "Poverty Expands Its Reach," San Diego Union-Tribune, May 18, 2003.
  30. Migration Information Source State Data (Migration Policy Institute)
  31. Urban Institute, Children of Immigrants Data Tool.
  32. Kevin McCarthy and Georges Veruez, Immigration in a Changing Economy, RAND, 1997.
  33. Don Lee, "L.A. County Jobs Surge Since '93, But Not Wages," Los Angeles Times, July 26, 1999.
  34. Peter Hong, Marla Dickerson, and Nancy Cleeland, "Southland's Average Family Income Dropped in the '90s,"Los Angeles Times, May 15, 2002.
  35. Beth Barrett, "Poverty Rates Climb in Los Angeles, Census Figures Show," Los Angeles Daily News, May 15, 2002.
  36. "The Changing Face of Child Poverty in California," National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University, August 2002.
  37. "California State Factsheet," Migration Information Source, Migration Policy Institute.
  38. "Medical Emergency: Costs of Uncompensated Care in Southwest Border Counties," US-Mexico Border Counties Coalition, September 2002.
  39. "A System in Crisis, More ERs Shut; Losses Grow," California Medical Association, 2003.
  40. Press Release, "CMA's Annual ER Financial Report: Hospital Losses Reached $390 Million in 2001," California Medical Association, February 27, 2003.
  41. Jerry Seper, "Mexican Medics Take Sick to U.S.," Washington Times, December 12, 2002.
  42. Kathleen Sweeney, "California Water Officials Plan for Future Droughts," Daily News of Los Angeles, January 27, 2002.
  43. Deborah Schoch, "Water shortage worst in decades, official says." Los Angeles Times May 2, 2008
  44. Center for Immigration Studies. November 2007.
  45. City of Los Angeles Environmental Affairs Department. Environmental Facts 2007
  46. Rich Connell "L.A. prepares massive water-conservation plan" Los Angeles Times May 15, 2008
  47. Deborah Schoch, Water shortage worst in decades, official says." Los Angeles Times May 2, 2008
  48. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, "Southern California’s Water Reserve Levels," June 24 2010 update.
  49. East Bay Municipal Utility District News, Oakland, CA. May 13, 2008.
  50. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, "Southern California’s Water Reserve Levels," June 24 2010 update.
  51. American Lung Association, "State of the Air 2010."
  52. Carrie Peyton Dahlberg and Matt Weiser. "Schwarzenegger hopes drought decree is wake-up call." Sacramento Bee. June 5, 2008.
  53. Andrew Silva, "Bad Air Comes Back," San Bernardino Sun, September 6, 2003.
  54. Conor Friedersdorf, "AQMD to Weight Pollutant Proposal," San Bernardino Sun, July 9, 2003.
  55. "Check Points," Urban Institute, September 2, 2000.
  56. Breaking the Piggy Bank: How Illegal Immigration is Sending Schools Into the Red, Federation for American Immigration Reform, August 2003.
  57. Thomas Hargrove, "U.S. School Building Boom Fails to Meet Need," Scripps Howard News Service, March 8, 2001.
  58. "Overview of Public Elementary and Secondary Schools and Districts: School Year 1999-2000," National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education. "Public Elementary and Secondary School Student Enrollment, High School Completions, and Staff From the Common Core of Data: School Year 2005-06', National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, June 2007. Projections of Education Statistics to 2015, National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education.
  59. "Public Elementary and Secondary School Student Enrollment, High School Completions, and Staff From the Common Core of Data: School Year 2005-06', National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, June 2007.
  60. Thomas Hargrove, Ibid.
  61. Ellen Lee, "McGrath Provides Answer to Space Question," Contra Costa Times, June 12, 2001.
  62. Lee Green, "Infinite Ingress: A Human Wave Is Breaking Over California," Los Angeles Times, January 25, 2004.
  63. "UC Teacher Recruitment and Preparation," Office of the President, University of California, at
  64. Michelle Locke, "Running Out of Room at the Hotel California?" Associated Press, May 26, 2001.
  65. Harrison Sheppard, "Crowding Becoming Crisis," Daily News of Los Angeles, February 18, 2001
  66. "The Debate Over Class Size," Education World, February 23, 1998.
  67. Erika Hayasaki and Patrick Dillon, "School District Shuts Out Sports," Los Angeles Times, March 11, 2004.
  68. Robert Gehrke, "Emergency Care for Undocumented Immigrants Costs $200 Million, Study Finds," Associated Press, September 27, 2002.
  69. Jo Moreland, "Study: County Pays $50M Annually in Border Costs," North County Times, February 6, 2002.
  70. Report Card for America's Infrastructure 2005," American Society of Civil Engineers.