By Adam Shaw
Published November 13, 2015

April 10, 2013: Protester Yolanda Araujo holds a mock resident alien card at a rally for immigration reform near Senator Dianne Feinstein's office, in Los Angeles, California. (Reuters)

Over half of all illegal immigrants in California earn incomes so low that they would be eligible for the state Medicaid system Medi-Cal, a new study has found, just as California is about to extend the health insurance to children in the country illegally.

The non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California concluded that, should the deep blue state choose to go further and expand the program to include all illegal immigrants, 51 percent of them would have incomes low enough to be eligible for the program.

The study estimates that there are approximately 2.6 million illegal immigrants living in California, and so approximately 1.4 million would be eligible for Medi-Cal benefits should they be extended to them.

In some areas, such as Los Angeles County, the number of illegal immigrants eligible rises to 58 percent.

To qualify for Medi-Cal on income, a family must be earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty line. In real terms, for a family of four the eligibility cut off is $32,913.

Critics of California’s immigration policy described the findings as evidence of the “self-inflicted costs” the state has incurred due to poor policy decisions.

“This is a consequence of policies California has implemented over many years that have induced a lot of people to settle in California who will rely heavily on government services,” Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, told

“These are the self-inflicted costs of essentially saying to people, ‘come here and settle illegally and take advantage of us,’” Mehlman said.

In October, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that extended Medi-Cal to illegal immigrant children as of 2016, which is estimated to apply to approximately 170,000 children.

Some lawmakers in the state see the move as only a first step, however. State Sen. Ricardo Lara advocates expanding health insurance to all illegal immigrants in the state. An early version of his bill failed after being priced at more than $1 billion, the LA Times reported.

"We have made tremendous progress in California this year to address these health disparities by expanding access to health care coverage for all children, but as this report indicates there is so much work still to be done,” Lara told

“That work continues with SB 10 next year, to expand Medi-Cal to uninsured, undocumented adults and to remove barriers to the state exchange to allow undocumented immigrants who can afford it to purchase insurance with their own money.”

Mehlman says that despite the costs that would be associated with expanding Medi-Cal, he believes California may eventually open up health care programs to more illegal immigrants.

“You would think the cost would damage the chances of it happening, but if you look at the way the California legislature has operated for the last 10-15 years, it seems even as they’re dealing with tight budgets and cutting services for other people, they keep coming up with new benefits for people who are in the country illegally,” he said.

“The nature of politics in California leaves the possibility they’ll do this in spite of the costs.”