Illegal immigration was a big issue in the last election, but it seems that few people really know the statistics. One question, in particular, is the number of so-called “anchor babies” that are really born each year. I relied solely on data from California government agencies (California Department of Healthcare Services and California Department of Public Health), since other sources can be unreliable. My research turned up some disturbing numbers.
It turns out that 19.5% of all births in California in 2005 (the latest year for which I could find sufficient data) were to undocumented immigrants using Medi-Cal. In other words, 1 in 5 newborns in the state was born, at taxpayer expense, to someone here illegally. In Los Angeles County alone, there were 40,777 Medi-Cal births to undocumented immigrants, out of a total of 81,023 births on Medi-Cal and 150,377 total births in the county. In other words, half of LA County Medi-Cal births were to undocumented immigrants, and 27% of all LA County births were to Medi-Cal funded undocumented immigrants. For Santa Cruz County, where I live, 760 out of 3385 births were to undocumented immigrants on Medi-Cal, for a rate of 22%.
The bottom line is that, while the publicly-funded birth rate to illegal immigrants isn’t quite as high as some have quoted, it is high: 20% statewide, with higher numbers in some counties. And it is a real problem, too. At just $5000 for a delivery, the state of California spent $500 million to pay for the delivery of babies born to illegal immigrants, and I suspect the actual cost was somewhat higher. To put that in perspective, the state spent $2.843 billion on the entire University of California system in 2005-06. Based on these numbers, it’s difficult to say that illegal immigration isn’t a serious problem in California.