Delilah Gutierrez, 10, holds a sign during a protest against President Donald Trump's efforts to crack down on immigration on Feb. 16, 2017, in San Francisco. (AP/Marcio Jose Sanchez) Delilah Gutierrez, 10, holds a sign during a protest against President Donald Trump's efforts to crack down on immigration on Feb. 16, 2017, in San Francisco. (AP/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Delilah Gutierrez, 10, holds a sign during a protest against President Donald Trump's efforts to crack down on immigration on Feb. 16, 2017, in San Francisco. (AP/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson July 5, 2018

No, it's not correct that 39% of California students are undocumented

A viral image on social media -- one that’s critical of illegal immigration -- has been circulating for years. The list of claims first circulated in the form of a chain email in 2006, according to Snopes.com. Six years later, we checked several of the claims ourselves.

With immigration in the headlines today, these claims are popular again.

In this article, we’ll fact-check No. 6: "39% of All California Students are illegals."

According to estimates by Enrico A. Marcelli of San Diego State University and Manuel Pastor of the University of Southern California, only about 3 percent of the child population in California -- defined as those under 18 -- were undocumented immigrants in the period 2008 to 2012. That’s far below the 39 percent suggested by the meme.

There’s another way to look at the scope of undocumented immigrants within the California K-12 system -- to look at the percentage of California K-12 students whose parents are unauthorized.

Featured Fact-check

According to the Pew Research Center, 12.3 percent of K-12 students in California in 2014 had an unauthorized immigrant parent.

This is a broader category -- encompassing parents rather than just students -- but even this doesn’t come close to the meme’s 39 percent figure.

It’s worth noting that "the vast majority of children of unauthorized immigrants are U.S. citizens—upwards of 80 percent," said Jeffrey Passel, senior demographer at Pew Research Center.

The 39 percent is "way off," said Manuel Pastor, director of the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration at the University of Southern California.

Our ruling

The viral image said, "39% of All California Students are illegals."

That’s well above the most solid estimates we’ve seen. Perhaps 3 percent of students are themselves undocumented, and 12.3 percent have a parent who is undocumented.

We rate the statement False.

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False
"39% of All California Students are illegals."
social media postings
Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Our Sources

Viral image received by PolitiFact

Enrico A. Marcelli and Manuel Pastor, "Unauthorized and Uninsured: Building Healthy Communities Sites and California," accessed July 3, 2018

Pew Research Center, "U.S. unauthorized immigration population estimates," Nov. 3, 2016

Email interview with Enrico A. Marcelli, sociologist at San Diego State University, July 3, 2018

Email interview with Manuel Pastor, director of the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration at the University of Southern California, July 3, 2018

Email interview with Jeffrey Passel, senior demographer at Pew Research Center, July 3, 2018

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No, it's not correct that 39% of California students are undocumented

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