New, Compelling Evidence that More Immigration Leads to Higher Poverty

Published on October 7th, 2013

By Joe Guzzardi
October 7, 2013

One fact in the endless immigration debate is unarguable: the more entitlements California makes available to illegal aliens, the more beckoning the state becomes. Earlier last week, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that will allow illegal aliens to obtain drivers licenses. 

He also signed bills that would permit illegal immigrants to practice law, and another that would block employers from retaliating against employees by threatening to turn them over to immigration authorities. A third, the Trust Act, would make it difficult if not impossible to deport any but the most violent criminal aliens. Lesser offenses like vehicular manslaughter, armed robbery and dozens of others would get a pass.

These bills will now be added to the already bursting-at-the seams-package that lures illegal immigrants to California: jobs, discounted university tuition, health care, welfare benefits and a society that offers every conceivable customer service in Spanish. California is 20 years away chronologically but a million miles realistically from 1994 when voters unanimously passed Proposition 187 that would deny illegal immigrants access to many social services.

Geographically, Mexico and Central America are the closest points from which to enter California. Unfortunately, those countries have high poverty and illiteracy levels. Their citizens, although willing to work hard, have limited skills, speak little English and have, historically, experienced assimilation difficulties. 

California has incentivized illegal immigration, both by ignoring federal statutes and rewriting its own, all-forgiving immigration laws. The inevitable consequence of decades of non-enforcement along with liberalized immigration laws and sharing a border with Mexico is that California’s poverty rate is the nation’s highest.

The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) recently revised the standards for measuring poverty that include a new variable: standard of living as determined by welfare reliance and its relationship to housing costs. Working with the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, PPIC researchers found that California’s poverty rate is 22 percent compared to the official 16 percent the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey released.

Not surprisingly, the poorest county is the one with the most immigrants, Los Angeles.  PPIC reported that Los Angeles County actually has a shocking 27 percent poverty level versus the officially reported 18 percent. People who live in more affordable communities like Sacramento or Placer counties have less poverty than Los Angeles; the San Joaquin Valley, more.

The PPIC analysis comes on top of last year’s Washington, D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) troubling study that ranked California third in income disparity, ahead of only Arizona and New Mexico.

One irony PPIC inadvertently uncovered is that two of the richest communities, Hollywood and Silicon Valley, are home to the most vocal comprehensive immigration reform advocates. Cheaper domestic workers and an endless flow of foreign-born low-wage labor engineers trump the common good—an economically stable California.

If immigration is good for the economy and job creation, as Congress and Governor Brown insist, then California which has the nation’s most immigrants should be the richest and not the poorest state.  But evidence from PPIC and the CBPP proves that too much immigration, especially at the pace at which it’s arriving in California, is bad for everyone.


Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been syndicated since 1986. Contact him at [email protected].

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