A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center
FactCheck.org is celebrating 15 years of holding politicians accountable.

False Meme about California’s ‘Illegal Aliens’


Quick Take

A meme on Facebook falsely claims that the California attorney general “bragged there are now 10 Million Illegal Aliens” in the state, when in fact he was talking about immigrants. The estimated number of people living in the state illegally ranges from 2 million to 3.1 million.


Full Story

A meme on Facebook falsely claims that California Attorney General Xavier Becerra “bragged there are now 10 Million Illegal Aliens” in the state and, as a result, California “will receive 13 extra seats in Congress” by including them in 2020 census. Both of these claims are inaccurate.

In August, Becerra said on Twitter and in a press release that more than 10 million immigrants live in California; he did not say that they were living in the state illegally.

Becerra made his remarks in response to a new federal rule that applies to immigrants legally seeking admission to the United States or adjustment of status while living in the United States. The new rule, which so far has been blocked in the federal courts, would allow the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to deny admission or adjustment of status to immigrants who are “likely at any time to become a public charge” — that is, someone who receives public assistance.

“This rule would cause significant harm to California, which is home to over 10 million immigrants,” Becerra said in an Aug. 27 press release. “Half of all children in California have a parent who is an immigrant.”

California’s total population is about 39.6 million — meaning one in every four Californians are immigrants, not that they are living in the state illegally.

In fact, the 10 million figure cited in the meme is nearly the total population of those estimated to be living illegally in the United States.

There were 12 million immigrants living in the country illegally as of January 2015, according to the most recent estimate from the Department of Homeland Security. Most recent estimates from two independent groups are similar: The Pew Research Center estimates the number at 10.5 million in 2017, and the Center for Migration Studies says there were 10.7 million people in 2017 living in the U.S. illegally.

As for California, estimates for the number of residents living in the state illegally range from 2 million to 3.1 million.

The Pew Research Center estimated the number was 2 million in 2017, down from 2.2 million in 2016, and the Department of Homeland Security says that it was around 2.9 million in 2015. Based on 2012-2016 data from the Census Bureau, the Migration Policy Institute concluded the undocumented population was 3.1 million.

The meme also falsely claims that “California will receive 13 extra seats in Congress by including 10 million illegal aliens in the 2020 US census.”

California has 55 seats in Congress — including 53 House seats. The number of House seats depends on the population count recorded by the decennial census, which does include “undocumented residents.”

But, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, California didn’t gain any House seats after the 2010 census — the number of representatives remained at 53 from 2000 to 2010 — and it appears unlikely to gain any in 2020.

The Sacramento Bee reported that California could actually lose a seat in 2020, because of the slow growth in the state’s population. “Right now, the current numbers that are coming in look very much like California is on track to lose a seat,” Eric McGhee, a research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, told the Sacramento Bee in May.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here.

Sources

America, Mark. “AFTER THE 2010 US CENSUS, CA RECEIVED 3 EXTRA SEATS IN CONGRESS BY INCLUDING 2.5 MILLION ILLEGAL ALIENS IN THEIR POPULATION TOTAL! California Attorney General Xavier Becerra bragged there are now 10 Million Illegal Aliens in CA! CALIFORNIA WILL RECEIVE 13 EXTRA SEATS IN CONGRESS BY INCLUDING 10 MILLION ILLEGAL ALIENS IN THE 2020 US CENSUS! NOW DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE PUSH FOR OPEN BORDERS AND SANCTUARIES?” Facebook. 23 Nov 2019.

Becerra, Xavier. “More than 10 million immigrants live in California. The Trump Administration’s abhorrent #PublicCharge rule will have a profound impact on California’s economy. We’re prepared to fight this illegal attack on immigrant communities and families. #ProtectFamilies.” Twitter. 14 Aug 2019.

Press release. “Attorney General Becerra Leads Multistate Coalition Seeking Preliminary Injunction to Halt Trump Administration’s Harmful Public Charge Rule.” State of California Department of Justice. 27 Aug 2019.

Federal Register. “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds.” Department of Homeland Security. 14 Aug 2019.

Final Rule on Public Charge Ground of Inadmissibility.” U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Accessed 26 Nov 2019.

United States Census Bureau. “Quick Facts: California.” United States Census Bureau. Accessed 26 Nov 2019.

Population Estimates: Illegal Alien Population Residing in the United States: January 2015.” Department of Homeland Security. Dec 2018.

Unauthorized Immigrant Population Trends for States, Birth Countries and Regions.” Pew Research Center. 12 June 2019.

Profile of the Unauthorized Population: California.” Migration Policy Institute. Accessed 26 Nov 2019.

California.” Govtrack.us. Accessed 26 Nov 2019.

Frequently Asked Questions.” United States Census Bureau. Accessed 26 Nov 2019.

Congressional Appointment: Frequently Asked Questions.” United States Census Bureau. Accessed 26 Nov 2019.

Burnett, Kristin. “Congressional Appointment: 2010 Census Briefs.” United States Census Bureau. Nov 2011.