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California Gov. Jerry Brown prepares to deliver his 2017 State of the State Address in Sacramento, CA. Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio California Gov. Jerry Brown prepares to deliver his 2017 State of the State Address in Sacramento, CA. Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

California Gov. Jerry Brown prepares to deliver his 2017 State of the State Address in Sacramento, CA. Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Chris Nichols
By Chris Nichols January 24, 2017

TRUE: 27 percent of Californians 'were born in a foreign land'

In his State of the State Address, Gov. Jerry Brown vowed to defend the protections California affords all immigrants in the state, documented or not, against the Trump administration.

"We will defend everybody – every man, woman and child – who has come here for a better life and has contributed to the well-being of our state," Brown said in his speech delivered at the state Capitol in Sacramento on January 24, 2017.

Brown added that immigrants are an integral part of California, helping "create the wealth and dynamism of this state from the very beginning."

He went on to say "27 percent" of Californians or "almost 11 million were born in a foreign land."

We decided to fact-check Brown on those numbers.

Our research

A spokesman for Brown pointed to figures from the U.S. Census Bureau to back up the statement.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey does, in fact, list California’s "foreign born" population at 27 percent.

The bureau defines foreign-born as anyone who is not a U.S. citizen at birth, including those who become U.S. citizens through naturalization.

California’s overall population was approximately 39.2 million as of July 1, 2016, according to census figures. Twenty-seven percent of that total would be about 10.6 million people.

Brown is on track when he described the figure as "almost 11 million."

Hans Johnson, a researcher at the Public Policy Institute of California, told us the 2015 American Community Survey is the best source on the state's foreign born population.

In a 2013 study using older data, the policy institute itself reported that 27 percent of California’s population was foreign born, about twice the U.S. percentage. California’s percentage appears to have remained steady in more recent years, according to the 2015 census study.

California's foreign-born

Forty seven percent of California’s immigrants were naturalized U.S. citizens, while about 26 percent had some other legal status, according the policy institute’s report. The study estimates 27 percent were undocumented.

So, where do California’s foreign born come from? More than half, or 53 percent, were born in Latin America, while 37 percent was born in Asia, according to the PPIC study. Mexico at 4.3 million, the Philippines at 812,000 and China at 760,000 are the leading countries of origin.

The nation’s foreign-born population reached 42.2 million, or 13.2 percent, in 2014, according to the Pew Research Center. That total has more than quadrupled since 1965, though its pace of growth has begun to slow in recent years.

Our ruling

Gov. Jerry Brown claimed in his State of the State Address that 27 percent of Californians, almost 11 million, "were born in a foreign land."

A 2015 American Community Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau verifies that statistic. Additionally, a researcher at the Public Policy Institute of California, which studies the state’s immigration and demographic patterns, confirmed the census report is the best authority on California’s foreign born population.

We rate Brown's claim True.


TRUE – The statement is accurate and there’s nothing significant missing.

Click here for more on the six PolitiFact ratings and how we select facts to check.

https://www.sharethefacts.co/share/157c1e3a-89e6-45e3-874b-afd232d8790c

Our Sources

Gov. Jerry Brown, State of the State Address, Jan. 24, 2017

Interview, Gareth Lacy, spokesman for Gov. Brown, Jan. 24, 2017

Interview, Hans Johnson, senior fellow, Public Policy Institute of California, Jan. 24, 2017

Interview, Gabriel Chin, professor, UC Davis School of Law, Jan. 24, 2017

U.S. Census Bureau, QuickFacts California; 2015 American Community Survey, accessed January 2017

Public Policy Institute of California, Just the Facts: Immigration in California, May 2013

Pew Research Center, Statistical Portrait of the Foreign-Born Population in the United States, April 19, 2016

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TRUE: 27 percent of Californians 'were born in a foreign land'

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