Why California is a Nation of Immigrants

Op-Ed: Are Californians fleeing en masse to Texas? The reality is complicated

Editor’s note: The following is an Op-Ed article by John Vidler, author of “A Nation of Immigrants.”

We were told this was a nation of immigrants to begin with, but no longer. The American public is waking up to the truth: we are a nation of immigrants, and increasingly, we are a nation of residents.

California, the state that in some ways is still the nation’s “backbone,” is a prime example. In California, nearly half of the state-issued driver’s licenses in 2016 were obtained by people with foreign-born last names. That number is rising.

California, by comparison, is also a nation of immigrants, in that more than one in six residents is foreign born. And over the last three decades, California’s foreign-born population has increased from 9.4 percent to nearly 15 percent.

The state’s long-term foreign-born population growth rate is three times greater than that of the nation as a whole. For example, the percentage of Californians born in Italy or El Salvador has more than doubled over the past two decades.

Foreign-born Californians make up nearly 10 percent of the population, and are projected to make as much as 14 percent by 2060. More than 30 percent of the state’s residents were raised in California.

Why are there so many foreign-born Californians? Part of the reason is that California has a large population of people from Latin America, Asia and Europe, plus tens of thousands of people from Canada, Mexico and elsewhere.

But the large foreign-born population growth in California isn’t due to a sudden influx of new arrivals from abroad. The state’s immigration policies are changing, and the state’s economy is rapidly changing, contributing to the growth of the foreign-born population.

California’s immigration policies

The State of California has always had immigration policies. In fact, it’s a state that has a long history of trying to welcome all groups of people. (California was the first state to legalize slavery.) Today, however, those policies may now be shifting.

Over the last few years, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said it has seen a dramatic rise in crime rates. This led to the construction of new police and sheriff’s stations in the county, all with the goal of boosting public safety.


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