Immigration in California

Table of Content

Immigration in Carlifonia.

            Immigrants from the world all over have always viewed the US as ‘the land of opportunity’. The perception in most of the developing countries is that moving to United Stats is a dream comes true with regards to economic opportunities and a chance to make a life either in the United States or investing back home so that they can go back to a cozy and comfortable life. United States of America is the most popular and has the biggest number of immigrants all over the world mainly due to geo-political factors i.e. it is neighboring South America whose many countries are poor and it shares some cultures with this south American counterparts (especially the Latino Americans) and its economic performance, abundant resources and job opportunities makes US attractive to immigrants all over the world (CREP, 2005).

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            One of the most popular regions for immigrants is California. According to  Giovanni (2007)  , the number of immigrants is around 10.5 million representing almost 30% of the total population in California, approximately 2.4 million undocumented or illegal immigrants, moreover, approximately 325,000 migrate into California annually. In addition, it is estimated that one in every two children in California who is twelve years and above are from immigrants both legal and illegal with Latino Americans forming the majority of Immigrants in California. This shows that immigrants form a significant part of California thus making it a good case study with regards to the impact of immigration in the whole of US.

            Immigration status in America has drawn attention among scholars, politicians and the society at large. Some factions support and even encourage immigration in US while other parties are of the view that there is need to get rid of immigrants to the US due to adverse effects that is brought forth by foreigners coming to the US. This paper is an in-depth evaluation and argument that focuses on the positive and negative impact of immigrants’ status in California in an attempt to justify the case for immigration in California.

Starting from the case against immigration in California, one of the most controversial issues is that immigrants take up US natives jobs thus contributing to the native’s economic demise and overall increase in poverty in the state. According to the public policy report in California (as quoted in Giovanni, 2007), California state accommodates the largest number of immigrants with a third of the laborforce being documented and undocumented immigrants. In addition, migration accounts for more than 40% of population growth in California; the state receives more that 300000 immigrants annually who migrate to the state with the sole purpose of seeking employment opportunities and economic objectives thus forming part of the labourforce.

 It has been argued that, unemployment rate especially among the low skilled laborers has increased due to increased supply of labor compared demand increase.

  It is argued that due to increased number of illegal immigrants in California, US native low skilled laborers are loosing out on opportunities due to the increased supply of unskilled labor caused by presence of illegal immigrants. Illegal immigrants are willing to work for less wages due to desperation thus are preferred by employers over the native born low skill laborers hence denying opportunities for native born Americans and consequently pulling down the wage rates on average. California is among the states that are worst hit by the scourge of poverty due to wage rate reduction and increased disparity between wages for immigrants and that of native born Americans. Among the poor, statistics show that immigrants form the largest composition with 3 out of 5 of the poor children in California being immigrants. In addition, the rate of immigrants living below federal poverty lines in California rose from 13.2% last decade to 16.5% (FAIR 2006 & Capps & Fortuny, 2007).

            Secondly, given the rate of migration of foreign born individuals into California, population increase and associated problems have adversely impacted the state. Firstly, according to Fair (2006), 10.5 million of the 36.5 million citizens of California were immigrants and based on their projections, the population of immigrants is expected to rise to 30 million by 2020. Looking at the current state of affairs with regards to population increase and comparing to the years 2020 projections (if reforms to control and minimize illegal immigration are not implemented), the state of California is facing fundamental problems with regards to congestion and over utilization of infrastructure thus leading to lose of income and stagnated economic development, reduced environmental and social welfare among other population explosion associated problems

            Firstly, looking at infrastructural use, the urban roads in California are the most congested in the US, vehicles increased by 25% between 1990 and 2003 thus contributing to dilapidated states of the highways. It is estimated that 60% of the Californian roads are congested and 71% of the roads are in unfavorable state, moreover, on average congestion and dilapidated roads leads to 93 hours loss annually in California and $554 increased expenditure on repair cost per every driver. In addition, it is estimated that congestion will increase by 400% by 2020 in regions like Sacramento while officials say they can afford an additional 10% of highway capacity (FAIR 2006).

            Secondly, looking at water and housing, it is predicted that an additional 4.3 million houses will be needed to satisfy the demand by 2020, currently California faces a shortage of 80000 units annually. Water supply will also fall short by 2.4 million and cities will be forced to reduce their reliance on cost efficient ground water from 75% to 57% to compensate it with highly priced imported water. Other sectors that are affected are congestion in classes with California having an average of 25 students per teacher instead of the recommended level of 18 students. Therefore, there is need for control of immigration movement in order to ensure that both immigrants and Native Americans living standards are not compromised (FAIR 2006 & Capps & Fortuny, 2007).

Due to the adverse effect of immigration the federal government introduced harsh laws and punitive measures against employers who give jobs to immigrants as a way to deal with immigration problem. These laws that restrict employing illegal immigrant are counter productive and inhuman since it leads to lose of income thus reduced remittances (discussed later) to the poor in developing countries who are normally dependant on the immigrants in the US. Secondly, employers shy away from both legal and illegal immigrants since it is hard to differentiate between fake papers and forged ones for employers and thirdly, the laws forces illegal immigrants to accept wage rate which exploit them further due to desperation thus reducing the average wage rate even further for all the low skilled laborers competing for the same jobs. Furthermore, there are also positive impacts associated with increased number of immigrants in the US (Feriss, 2008 & Rodolfo & De la Garza, 2002).

Firstly, as opposed to the general view that immigrants take job opportunities from Native Americans, studies have shown that this is not entirely true. A 1997 National Academy of Sciences report as quoted in CREP (2005) found out that “an increase in immigration flows will lead to higher incomes for productive factors that are complementary with immigrants, but lower incomes for factors that compete with immigrants.” The report also shows that there is no correlation between high immigration population and unemployment rate meaning that immigrants do not take up Native Americans job. Therefore, Americans benefit from the skills brought by immigrants population which are different thus act as input and they end up filling the unwanted jobs given the wage rate hence leading to more productivity and growth.

            Secondly, on the national level, a survey by MIF (2008) shows that more 50% of Latino immigrants send money back home for personal use and investment purposes. According to MIF report. Remittances sent back home form a very integral source of investment funds, foreign exchange for developing countries and are a good mechanism for redistribution of resources and poverty alleviation strategy. According to Said (2006), “… remittances are a huge global phenomenon, surpassing $250 billion worldwide every year and far outweighing international foreign aid, according to the World Bank. In many Latin American, Caribbean and African countries, remittances are a key pillar of the gross domestic product”.

 The recent survey by MIF inter- American bank is a good example of California’s contribution to poverty alleviation and redistribution of resources among developing countries. According to the survey, total US remittances are approximately $45.9 billion which forms 10% of the total annual income of immigrants. According to the report, 52% of Latino Americans in California send an average of $325 per month back home and the two main reasons cited is to support relatives back home and to invest in either real estate or small retail store. The annual contributions in terms remittances by the California State is $14.6 billion representing 30% of the total remittances from the US. Therefore, this means immigrants contribute 90% to the local economy by boosting demand and hence economic growth and development while at the same time redistribute 10% of their proceeds to other countries hence directly impacting both the US economy and facilitating the redistribution of income to poor country for growth and development back home. (Rodolfo & De La Garza, 2002 & Said , 2008)

            Lastly, another controversial issue that has hotly been debated is on the fact that most of the US Native Americans end up paying for public services such as medical cover and education while this benefits the immigrants who do not contribute much to taxes compared to the public services they consume. However, economists argue that these costs should be taken as investment rather than a cost. According to Californian regional economies projects (2005), educating and provision of human development services in the short term are costs but in the long term they translate to investment since it amounts to equipping young immigrants who are most likely to be American citizens with education thus the capacity to earn and in the future contribute to the economy in terms of services they will offer and taxes paid given the fact that higher earnings are closely related to higher education (Giovanni, 2007).

             In conclusion, there is indeed a need to control the number inflow of immigrants in California due to the adverse population increase effects in order to ensure that the sustainable economic and social development are in line and can support increase in population. Therefore, policies need to be put in place to deal with inflow of illegal undocumented immigration. However, California and America at large should ensure that total ban harsh restrictions of immigrants inflow is not implemented because this will have adverse effect in the economy of the state and the whole world at large. Immigrants form an integral part of the American people by complementing the US workforce and offering the much needed supply of labor hence ensuring that resources are fully utilized, productivity is maximized and thus an important driver of economic growth and development.

Furthermore, through remittances which only form 10% (therefore not harmful to the US economy compared to their contribution) of the immigrants income goes along way in development of poor nation by offering investment funds for growth and development and inhibiting poverty related problems thus acting as a income redistribution mechanism. Therefore, America as a country should fully understand the contributions of immigrants. One recommendation is that effect policies that will minimize the inflow to an acceptable level but in regards to the immigrants already in the country, efforts should be made to legalize their status because it is impractical and expensive both economically and socially to relocate them or infringe their rights as American citizens.


Capps, Randolph & Fortuny, Karrina. “The characteristics of unauthorized immigrants in California, Los Angeles and the United States”. Posted March 6th 2007 Accessed 19th May 19, 2008 from Urban Institute Organization.

California Regional Economies Project. (CREP).“Impact of immigration on the Californian economy” 27th March 2005. The Center for continuing studies of the Californian economy. Accessed 19th May 2008 from

FAIR. “Immigration impact: California.” Federation for American immigration reform organization. (2006). Accessed 19th May 2008 from

Ferris, Susan. “Immigration enforcement in California turns focus to the workplace.” 17th May 2008. Sacramento Bee. Pg. A1

Giovanni, Peri. “How immigrants affect California employment and wages.” (February 2007).  Public Policy institute of California. Vol. 8. No. 3. Accessed 19th May 2008 from

Inter-American development bank Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF). Survey of Latino American Immigrants in the United States. (30th April 2008). Accessed 19th May 2008 from

Rodolfo, O & De la Gaza Sending Money home: Hispanic and community development. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Said, Ceci.” Cost of sending money home strains Latinos” San Francisco Chronicles. (16th July 2006) Accessed 19th May 2008 from

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Immigration in California. (2016, Oct 15). Retrieved from

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