Immigration Status: The variety and complexity of immigration statuses can create diverse challenges for California’s immigrants, many of whom are our co-workers, neighbors, friends, and family.

Each indicator page features a series of charts, insights and analysis, case studies, and related indicators.

Insights and Analyses

  • Protections for undocumented Californians are crucial. In 2021, there were about 2.4 million immigrants across the state who were undocumented.
  • A majority of lawful residents in California were people of color. In 2021, Latinos and Asian Americans composed 49% and 32% of lawful residents in California, respectively.
  • Some immigration statuses are temporary in nature, creating instability and anxiety for immigrants who have to renew their statuses frequently. Across California, in 2023, there were about 154,000 immigrants who had Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Moreover, as of 2023, there were about 62,500 immigrants in California who were Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients.
  • Immigrants who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and others (LGBTQ+) are underrepresented in data. According to a 2021 report by the Williams Institute, there were nearly 1.3 million adult immigrants in the U.S. who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT), about 289,700 of whom were undocumented. California was home to an estimated 59,600 undocumented adults who identified as LGBT, the highest number of any state.
  • Among the approximately 41,000 transgender adult immigrants in California, the UCLA Williams Institute estimates that about 69% are naturalized citizens, 14% are non-citizens with “Green Cards,” and 17% are non-citizens without “Green Cards.”
  • California is also home to a large number of international students studying in the U.S. Data by the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) showed that as of February 2024, there were nearly 158,300 active international students in California.
  • In California, a sizable number of immigrant workers hold H-1B visas, a classification that allows immigrants to temporarily work in the U.S. in distinct occupations through a U.S. employer. However, this visa must be renewed every three years, leaving this subset of immigrants in a vulnerable position if they lose their job. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2023, 74,198 workers were approved for an H1-B visa in California.

Youth Justice Coalition (YJC) Organizer Phal Sok, formerly incarcerated and targeted for deportation by ICE, shares his story to emphasize the need to reform “crimmigration,” the intersection of criminal law and immigration policy. 

As an infant, Phal Sok and his family were granted permanent resident status in the U.S. after fleeing the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia and spending time in a refugee camp in Thailand. When they arrived in Los Angeles, they were forced to navigate a whole new way of life and Phal's parents did not do well. They divorced before Phal's third birthday and his mother never turned back. As a youth, Phal's father passed away and he was left without resources. When he went to his school seeking support, he was pushed out. Soon thereafter, he was arrested for armed robbery, tried as an adult, and sentenced to prison for 23 years and eight months.

In 2015, Phal was one of the first and few that was granted parole thanks to SB-260, a bill that recognized juveniles should not be treated as adults. On the day of his release from prison, despite having permanent resident status and having gone through a vigorous parole suitability process, Phal was arrested and detained for ICE. He was ordered deported and eventually temporarily released pending deportation. Before he was re-detained by ICE four months later, Phal connected with community members in L.A. including a local church who encouraged him to fight his deportation. He filed on his own in the federal courts and was later released in late November 2016 under bond. He began to organize in L.A. and became a member of YJC working on "crimmigration."

In 2018, he received a full and unconditional pardon from then-Governor Jerry Brown to help protect him from deportation. As an organizer, he has given back to his community in L.A., supporting immigrant youth and formerly incarcerated people. He has played key roles in YJC campaigns such as stopping the construction of new jails in L.A. County and YJC's FREE L.A. High School. 

For more information about Phal’s story, you can read this profile. To learn more about YJC’s work, visit and @youthjusticela on Instagram and X.

Photo courtesy of Phal Sok.

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