No matter what side of the immigration debate one takes, there is no denying that undocumented workers play a vital role in California’s economy.
A new report from the California Immigrant Policy Center and the University of Southern California says that approximately one in 10 California workers is an undocumented immigrant. Half of them have been in the country for at least 10 years and nearly 75% live in a household with a U.S. citizen. Around 58% lack health insurance.
Illegal immigrants contribute $130 billion to the state’s gross domestic product, which is around $1.9 trillion. They make up 38% of the agricultural workforce and 14% of the construction industry. Those numbers might be higher if 117,000 illegals had not been deported since 2009.
California’s 2.6 million undocumented immigrants are 26% of the state’s total immigrant population. Forty-seven percent of the immigrants are U.S. citizens. Immigrants and their kids make up 42% of the state’s population.
Immigrants in general are 35% of the state’s workforce and generate 27% of California’s total household income. That guy putting a new roof on a neighbor’s home is probably an immigrant (61%). Same goes for maids and housecleaners (79%), sewing machine operators (91%), graders and sorters of agricultural products (81%), janitors and building cleaners (51%), cooks (64%) and dishwashers (62%).
The report speculates that this demographic map portends big changes in California’s political future. “A full 18% of the voting-age population is non-citizen.” More than 2 million immigrants were eligible to become naturalized citizens as of 2010 and another 1.1 million were lined up to join them in the following five years.
That would swell the ranks of voting-eligible naturalized immigrants, which already stands at 20% of the voting public. The report says that research indicates immigrant Latinos who become naturalized during times of political upheaval vote at a much higher rate than natives and those who have been naturalized for a long time.