Illegal Immigration Costs California $30.3 Billion A Year—17.7% Of State Budget

In light of Donald Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigrants, it’s worth looking at the facts—how many illegal immigrants are there, and what do they cost America?

Lots. Almost $150 billion a year.

But this article focuses specifically on California, which is home to an estimated 27% of America’s illegal aliens.

You can read the full report on illegal immigrants in America here; I cover economics, crime, culture, and morality.

Illegal Immigrants Cost California $30.29 Billion A Year

Illegal immigrants and their children cost California at least $30.29 billion a year in net costs—$7,352 per alien.

For context: given that California’s state budget is $171 billion, this means that illegal immigration would cost 17.7% of this spending (although much of the costs are absorbed locally).

At this point, the question is no longer whether California ought to allow illegal immigration—it’s whether it can afford it.

Illegal aliens are expensive, and financial burden on California’s already strained government is unsustainable.  Worse, it’s already taking its toll.

Just this week California’s Oroville Dam was on the brink of breaching, due to financial neglect—there’s just not enough money to go around.

oroville dam main spillway overflow
Oroville dam’s main & auxiliary spillways were opened to relieve water pressure. The state was aware of the need for upgrades 12 years ago.

Immanent disaster seems to have alerted the state legislature of the need for action—last week they requested $100 billion in federal funding to rebuild their state.

Frankly I hope they get the funding.  They need it.

But it brings up an important question: why can’t they afford to maintain their state themselves?

California is America’s largest and richest state.  It’s the home of giant, high-tech, highly profitable companies like Apple and Google—yet it’s fallen into disrepair.

Frankly, it’s because the state’s been flooded with illegal immigrants, who increase systemic strain without proportionally contributing to the economy.

Basically, Californians are supporting themselves, in addition to a very large underclass—one in eleven Californians are illegal immigrants (at bare minimum).

This is much like Sweden, which now spends over 20% of it’s tax dollars on migrants.  It’s not that bad in California, but it’s very close.

How Many Illegal Immigrants Are In The US? California?

In all honesty, no one really knows.

They’re undocumented.  That’s the whole point.

Estimates are wide-ranging.  On the low end, Pew Research estimates that the number of illegal immigrants in the US is roughly 11.1 million—this number tracks fairly closely with official government figures.

On the high end, estimates peg the number of illegal aliens in the US at roughly 30 million people.  This number has been proposed by conservative author Ann Coulter in her book Adios America.  She based the figure off banking and remittance payment records, government service demand, and migration projections from ICE.

Frankly, I think the math makes much more sense with Coulter’s estimate, but in the interests of neutrality, this article will proceed using the lowest realistic number of illegal immigrants in California (11.1 million).

But that’s for the entire USA.  What about California?

According to the Migration Policy Institute, there are 3,019,000 adult illegal immigrants living in the state of California.  On top of this are 1.1 million children of illegal immigrants (975,000 of which would be considered anchor babies).

Hispanic Americans protest illegal immigration
Americans of all backgrounds are impacted by illegal immigration, which suppresses wages for American citizens, and increases the cost of living.

In total, there are 4.12 million illegal immigrants, and their children living in California.

Furthermore, these people use government services (which proponents of illegal immigration often try to minimize).  I’ll get into the details later, but just as an example, some 806,000 undocumented migrants had drivers licences in 2016.

Most are also relatively unskilled with poor language skills.  It is estimated that 54% of illegals speak English “not well” or speak it “not at all”.  This is why they tend to work in low level service sector jobs, like in restaurants, or doing manual labor, like picking fruit.

In any event, it must be noted that illegal immigrants aren’t adding value to the economy that teenagers or machines couldn’t easily do, given the chance.

So that’s the number we’re dealing with.  Let’s look at the cost of illegal immigration, the facts and statistics, and see how they break down.

Calculating The Cost Of Illegal Immigration In California

california classrooms are crowded
California’s classrooms are some of the most crowded in the country—classes are swollen by a large number of “anchor babies” and undocumented children.

Education For Illegal Immigrants: $15.63 Billion

As stated, there are 975,000 anchor babies and 130,000 undocumented children living in California.  This totals 1.105 million children—all of whom are educated largely at state expense.

Although the California Department of Education doesn’t include undocumented children as a separate statistical group in terms of costs, we know that the total enrollment in California’s public schools was 6,226,737 in 2016.  A further 573,000 attended private charter schools.

Given that the vast majority of illegal immigrants attend public schools, this means that roughly 17.7% of California’s public student population is comprised of children here illegally, or the children of illegal immigrants.

This inflated student population costs a lot, and adds huge burdens on California’s education system.

According to California’s state budget, $88.3 billion is allocated for California’s K-12 students ($51.6 billion from California, the rest from local and federal initiatives).

Given their proportion of the student population, illegal immigrants and their children eat up $15.63 billion in educational costs.

This lowers the quality of education for American citizens, especially since California’s student-to-teacher ratio is 35% above the national average.

This is directly the result of illegal immigration—it’s the kids that suffer.

Healthcare For Illegal Immigrants: $4.02 Billion

Providing  healthcare for illegal immigrants in California imposes significant costs, while also increasing wait-times and decreasing the overall quality of care (by lowering the physician-to-patient ratio).

Illegal immigrants withdraw roughly $2.28 billion from Medicaid in California, and cost roughly $1.3 billion in emergency services (they are treated, but do not pay).

Together, these hard costs equate to $4.02 billion per year.

However, these numbers don’t necessarily reflect the true costs of illegal aliens on the healthcare system, because they don’t quantify opportunity costs (we could be investing in better technology, or more doctors, rather than treating illegal immigrants) or damage caused by the burdened system (pain and suffering caused by long wait times, lost productivity etc.).

Remittance Payments: $3.86 Billion

A remittance is a transfer of money from someone in the US to their family back home.

They are usually given by recent immigrants, and particularly by illegal immigrants and visa card holders (who come to America to work in order to support their family abroad).

Basically, a remittance is money lost from the economy: it vanishes, never to be spent domestically.

According to Pew Research America lost $133.6 billion in remittances in 2015.

Of this, $24 billion went to Mexico (the biggest recipient).

Other important destinations, for our purposes, are Guatemala ($5.9 billion), El Salvador ($3.98 billion), the Dominican Republic ($3.83 billion), and Honduras ($3.2 billion).

All totaled, $40.9 billion was sent from the US to Mexico and Central America.

Now, we can’t assume that only illegal immigrants send remittances, so I will estimate that first generation immigrants and illegal immigrants send remittances at the same frequency.

This will provide us with an (intentionally) low estimate for remittances paid by illegal immigrants to Mexico and Central America alone.

Given that there are 11.7 million legal immigrants from Mexico, and 3.1 million from Central America living in the USA, this gives as a pool of 14.8 million legal immigrants contributing to the remittance figures.

We also know that 74% of illegal immigrants are from Mexico or Central America, or 8.14 million.

This means that of the total Hispanic population assuming to be paying remittances, 35% are likely illegal immigrants.  This works out to illegals paying out $14.31 billion to the region annually.

If we narrow this down to California, where 27% of total illegal immigrants live, then we can determine that Californian illegal immigrants remit $3.86 billion every year to Mexico and Central America.

This is to say nothing of the other nearly 1 million illegal immigrants, most of whom overstayed their visas, which would add significantly to this figure.

Crimes Committed By Illegal Immigrants: $4.4 Billion

40% of all federal crimes occur in states bordering Mexico.

The additional costs imposed by crimes committed by illegal immigrants, which include policing, court, and incarceration costs, add up to $4.4 billion, according to the study done by the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

This includes an additional $1.85 billion for policing, $1.12 billion for court services, and $1.54 billion for prisons.

As significant as this is, it doesn’t begin to approach the true costs of crime, which should rightly factor in lost productivity and wages, and intangible costs such as pain and suffering, long-term social costs (such as a reduction in community cohesion etc.).  The list goes on and on.

These intangible costs (which are never included in such studies because of their vagueness) are likely significantly higher than the tangible costs.

For example, a study which estimated the average intangible costs of crimes in California (2008 dollars) shows that the real cost is much higher than the calculated costs for most crimes—especially for violent and sexual crimes.

The intangible costs are estimated based on special damages awarded by court proceedings.

Type of OffenseTangible CostIntangible CostTotal Cost
Rape/Sexual Assault$41,252$199,642$240,776
Aggravated Assault$19,472$95,023$107,020
Motor Vehicle Theft$10,534$262$10,772
Stolen Property$7,974N/A$7,974
Household Burglary$6,169$321$6,462
Forgery and Counterfeiting$5,265N/A$5,265

Were we to include intangible costs, even doubling the stated figure of $4.4 billion would probably understate the situation.

Frankly, I think the number’s probably higher in terms of tangible costs, given that the proportional percent of crimes committed by illegal immigrants is high.  For example, almost 75% federal drug possession sentences were given to illegal immigrants, and 40% of all federal crimes were committed in jurisdictions neighboring the Mexican border—meaning they were likely due to gang and drug trafficking committed by illegal immigrants.

Simply put, the statistics show that illegal immigrants dramatically increase crime rates.

Beyond that, illegal immigrants are highly over-represented in murder charges, committing 38% of all murders in California, Texas, Arizona, Florida and New York.

We’ll stick with $4.4 billion as our ballpark, but it’s probably at least double that.

Government Administration & Services: $1.6 Billion

Added strain caused by the illegal immigrant population costs California $1.6 billion a year.

Included in this number are things like the upkeep of parks, public recreation areas, libraries, roads, fire departments, and $792 million in state welfare handouts.

This number doesn’t include intangible costs of systemic strain, such as longer lines, busier parks etc.  This contributes to the quality of life, but can’t easily be measured.

It also doesn’t include the spillover impact on American citizens who need public assistance but can’t get it, because illegal immigrants are milking the system.

For example, roughly 1.5 million citizens spend over half their income on shelter in California—housing is expensive because illegal immigrants compete in the property market, inflating costs.  You never hear about this, but the cost of living is increased due to illegal immigration.

Tax Revenue: $3.5 Billion

Illegal immigrants do pay taxes, including sales taxes and (sometimes) payroll taxes.  It’s estimated that they contribute $3.5 billion in taxes to California’s state revenue.

This isn’t even close to what they withdraw in terms of services.

Annual Cost Of Illegal Immigration To California: $30.29 Billion

Illegal aliens cost California $30.29 billion every single year—this includes their contribution in terms of taxes.

This works out to $7,352 per illegal immigrant.

This massive burden is one of the main reasons California’s schools and infrastructure is in a total state of disrepair.

These estimates are likely very low, since they don’t include any intangible costs associated with crime or increased systemic strain, they low-ball remittance estimates, and the number of illegal aliens in California is realistically at least double the numbers used.

How Do We Fix The Problems With Illegal Immigration?

Frankly, the only way to do it is to deport the illegal immigrants, starting with the criminals.

This is not a moral question, it’s a question of fact—California can’t continue to support a massive population of undocumented migrants on the public expense.

The costs are too great, and it’s seriously impacting the quality of life of America’s own people—particularly black and Hispanic American citizens, who often directly compete with illegal immigrants for jobs.

Deportation may sound bad, but it needs to happen.  And if we’re being honest, most would probably self-deport if California were to stop subsidizing their living expenses, and the government cracked down on employers who hire illegals.

No jobs, no welfare: no reason to stay.

The second element is to make sure we keep them out.  America needs to invest more in border security, and this includes a wall.

And to those who think walls don’t work, you’re sorely mistaken.  Walls worked in Israel.  Walls worked in Hungary.  And walls will work here.

There’s a reason the East Germans built the Berlin wall: it worked.

If you liked this article, be sure to check out NEE’s analysis of the cost of illegal immigrants in Texas.



About Spencer P Morrison 45 Articles
JD candidate, writer, and independent intellectual with a focus on applied philosophy, empirical history, and practical economics.Author of "America Betrayed" and Editor-In-Chief of the National Economics Editorial.


  1. According to Jerry Brown, he believes its more important to have illegals work the lower class jobs and leave impoverished american’s no opportunities with his sanctuary city stance. Backwards Californian’s, these libs have no clue how to manage a state.

  2. I do not think the data are justified. First of all, how do you get these costs? As far as I know if they are illegal, that is no ID or undocumented, how do they get anything (healthcare, welfare) from government, or get away with it because I always have to show my document to the officials whenever I apply anything. If what you said was true, how do these undocumented immigrants get away with it? If it is fake ID, are you sure everyone are capable to make fake documents. I certainly like to know how so easy to make fake documents or GETTING AWAY WITHOUT IMMIGRATION PROOF. Now, if you mention free education for illegal immigrant children, I can agree, but I think this is probably the least that a big and strongest country U.S. can do for the world. Otherwise U.S. should be ashamed of himself for taking so many resources from the earth and did nothing good to this world. Instead U.S. has spend so much in military (largest spending in the world) for no good reason. In addition, if you analyze the data further, U.S. is facing declining birth rate, even more worst among white american. It will spell disaster for U.S. economy if there is no immigrant, Japan, Germany, Korea, U.K. are the good examples. Your article is also biased due to the fact that the positive side of economy were not elaborated.

    • The US does not have a moral obligation to educate another country’s kids. That’s the most retarded thing I’ve ever heard.

      Not only that, but it’s not even remotely feasible: there are just too many poor people. Life isn’t the movie Elysium, it’s not like America’s hoarding enough resources to make everyone in the world live like kings.

      • I am not referring to other country’s kids, I am referring to the illegal immigrant children here in U.S. because you are also the child of the child of the child of the illegal immigrant long time ago.

        • Taking a 6 hour van ride across the border doesn’t make you an American. Neither does being born in America. It’s bigger than that.

          The US is one of the only countries that grants citizenship just because you were born on the land. It’s retarded tbh.

          Legal immigrant. Not illegal. There’s a big difference kiddo.

          • Dickhead, you are also the child of illegal immigrant, go check your history book. Unless you are a Native Red Indian, You are also illegal.

            • Hey dickhead:

              1) By your logic, everyone is an illegal immigrant. The Turks conquered Turkey from the Byzantines. Turks are illegal immigrants. The Saxons conquered England from the Romano-Celts. English are illegal immigrants. What a retarded argument.

              2) You don’t understand what immigration means. Immigration is when a person moves from one state to another, within the bounds of the law. They become a citizen. There’s no such thing as illegal immigrants, they’re migrants.

              3) You can only immigrate to a country that exists: if there’s no one there, then you’re not an immigrant. You’re a settler. North America was basically uninhabited after disease wiped out 95-99% of natives. Not only that, but they didn’t have countries, they were mostly nomads.

              English settlers didn’t immigrate to Iroquois land. They settled nearby and created their own country. That country is what people immigrated to. So no. We’re not all descended from illegal immigrants. We’re either descended from settlers, slaves, or legal immigrants. You just don’t understand your own history.

              • Dickhead, you are wrong and very wrong. History has a time factor, For example, President Trump said US should take the oil from Iraq because US removed Saddam Hussein, he would have been VERY right and VERY legitimate to do so if this is 1000 years ago, but he is DEAD wrong to do it now, even though we know US is capable to enforce it because US has the strongest military in the world, US will never do such a unethical act: “to take oil from Iraq”, let alone LAND.

                America is considered** as the last continent to be found, during that time, it was already very wrong to be claimed by any country, England, Spain, France etc.

                Another example is, Antarctica is actually the last continent to be found, that is why, as of today, no country can claim sovereignty over Antarctica. By the same logic, I think America should be the same as Antarctica, no country, no one can claim the sovereignty, it is actually a correct path or legitimate reason NOW for America to welcome everyone to come in, after all, let me repeat: you are also illegal.

                • Hi again, Dickhead.

                  Why is it not ethical to take Iraq’s oil? You made an assertion, can you back that up? I disagree. I think it is ethical: if we don’t take the oil, ISIS gets the oil (they’re evil), and if we’re spending money to defeat ISIS, we should be compensated by Iraq.

                  Why was it wrong for European powers to claim America for their own? The Aztecs claimed Mexico for their own (they brutally conquered their enemies, and literally ate them), why were they legitimate? They only arrived in Mexico 100 years before the Spanish, afterall.

                  Countries do claim sovereignty over Antarctica, these include the USA, UK, Argentina, Russia, Australia etc. What matters is their ability to exercise exclusivity over that occupation, otherwise it’s meaningless.

                  Also, you didn’t provide an argument as to why America can’t control its borders? Is it not sovereign over the land? You’re basically saying that America doesn’t exist, and that it should be governed along tribal lines (whoever can come here can stake their claim). Why can’t China just send settlers to California then? Oh. Because the USA IS SOVEREIGN. Your argument is literally retarded.

                  And no, I’m not illegal. I was born here.

                  • Dickhead,

                    Trump is a president now, he has the power, or in anyway, he can sign an executive order to take Iraq’s oil, why isn’t it done, it is also his strong belief. If you can get/convince President Trump to take Iraq’s oil, then your argument is correct, otherwise you are a coward, a hypocrite.
                    I have no time to rebut your other points.

    • As a Californian formerly of the bay area I can assure you that the black market supporting illegal immigrants and identity theft is thriving. Ways I have heard about is using social security cards of dead citizens and multiple identifications per person.

      Another aspect of illegal immigration activity was when I worked at the Redwood City whole Foods Market deli. INS was constantly removing my coworkers. Yet jobs were held for them to return even up to a year later. Seems more than one systematic illegal operation in place to support illegal immigrants.

      The issue of remittance rang true during my time at Whole Foods as well. To be person, I thought I could tell who was illegal by the way coworkers would discuss homeownership. People who bought homes in the US were more likely to be legal citizens. People who sent the bulk of their pay home to Latin America (mostly Mexico, some Peru and other smaller countries) discussed homeownership in their birth country and how much farther their dollars stretched at home. Made me feel they were just using the US and not a citizen, but that is just my opinion and experience down in the trenches of east bay.

      • Great insight. Love to hear from locals, since I’m not in Cali.

        I think most of them are literally using the US, either by collecting welfare & living here, or by sending the money home. To be honest, I have a hard time morally faulting them: I’d probably do the same in their situation, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have an obligation to our own people first.

        There are millions of unemployed Americans who can’t get decent work because illegals have depressed the wages so dramatically. As for Whole Foods, it’s not just them, but it highlights the fact that most illegals are here because people are willing to hire them (and will break the law to save a few bucks). Go after the employers.

        • Yes! Go after the employers! That is the key to dismantling this whole ridiculous system. Employers should be penalized for the illegal employees entire history of pay received from that company multiplied by the number of years they ignored the illegality of the situation. This should be further multiplied by total number of offenses the company has ever incurred over time. The government needs to back up and support its citizens from this large scale corporate crime.

          We need more people like you who understand how we are being fleeced by both the illegally employed and the unscrupulous employer. Keep up the good work!

    • Super simple. You don’t need Medicaid/medical you walk into any er and get health care. We don’t care if your from mars, you will be treated…without any documentation what so ever. The healthcare cost are totally real and absolutely sickening to those who get to witness it daily lk me a CA ER nurse. Additionally, we pay Spanish medical interpreters FT in the hosp. No other language is required just Spanish.

  3. Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon everyday. It’s always useful to read through content from other writers and practice something from other sites.

  4. Great article! There is one sure way to document the cost of illegal immigration in California and the US as a whole: Create the environment needed for most ‘law-abiding’ illegals to self-deport and focus ICE and Border Patrol on removing ‘law-breaking’ illegals. Then add up the local, state and federal budget numbers in terms of tax revenues, tax credits, remittances sent to Mexico and Central America, and social costs. Those who support illegal immigration know damn well that would prove illegals cost far more than they contribute. And such are fighting tooth-and-nail now to prevent that from coming to unarguable light.

    • Thanks for the support. I agree, they’re doing everything they can to hide the data (much like they’re doing in Europe with the migrants right now)—because it’s damning.

      I agree, I think most would self-deport if they weren’t able to get work. There needs to be more focus on the employers.

  5. In the 80s, tuiition at the University of California was FREE. It cost NOTHING to attend and get a degree from the University of California, or California State.

    Due to the stupid brown monkeys imported into the state by criminal Jews, the tuition is now $14,000 per year, and increasing almost every year.

    What a COMPLETE DISGRACE AND CRIME this is, and I hope the scum repsonsible for it pay with their childrens’ blood.

  6. Illegal immigration into California is a continuing problem. Although many illegals work hard they don’t pay taxes like others in California and they’re chronic lack of car insurance is a “given.” If you live here you must carry a very high amount of car insurance for uninsured and underinsured drivers otherwise you could be in big trouble if you get involved in an accident with one of them. The come from a country that is “extremely politically corrupt” where the Mexican government and the drug cartels are one in the same and they’re the only ones with guns. Mexicans gave-up their gun rights years ago. DUMB!

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