New Study: Undocumented Immigrants in California Contribute $130 Billion To State GDP

Yet they lack basic civil rights protections and face the daily threat of deportation.

A new study on immigrant contributions at the University of Southern California has revealed that undocumented immigrants in California make up 10% of the workforce and contribute $130 billion to the gross domestic product, the LA Times reported

The study, conducted in conjunction with the California Immigrant Policy Center, explores the various ways that the estimated 2.6 million immigrants who lack legal status participate in state life, with a particular focus on their contributions to the state’s GDP. The study found that most immigrant workers lack basic civil rights protections and are faced with the daily threat of family separation and deportation due to the federal government’s inability to create a “rational immigration system.”

Other key findings in the report with respect to undocumented immigrants in California include:

  • 58% do not have health insurance
  • 38% work in the agriculture industry
  • Half have been in the state for at least 10 years
  • Three quarters live in households that include U.S. citizens
  • Of the 4.4 million immigrants living in the greater L.A. region, 1.1 million are undocumented, contributing $57 billion to the regional GDP

And yet, CIPC says the undocumented immigrant population in California has suffered some 117,000 deportations in recent years from one deportation program alone.

The findings come in the midst of increased debate over major immigration reform. Obama has vowed to use his executive power to make changes in deportation policies, but has been met with strong opposition from congressional members who favor stricter restrictions on immigration.

Advocates for more inclusive immigration policies say the economic contributions of immigrants are a primary reason they should be allowed to stay.

“Every one of California’s immigrants helps shape our state’s economic and civic vitality, but the daily threat of deportation casts a shadow over California’s undocumented residents—and their loved ones and communities,” said Reshma Shamasunder, executive director of the California Immigrant Policy Center in a press releaseShamasunder says these undocumented residents contribute over $130 billion to the state’s GDP and President Obama should honor these contributions in the interest of economic prosperity. The group is calling upon the Obama administration to recognize the contributions of immigrant workers and strengthen the stability of their communities. 

Jodie Gummow is a senior fellow and staff writer at AlterNet.


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