Santa Ana Allows Non-Citizens to Serve on Public Boards and Commissions 

March 17, 2021 Updated: March 17, 2021

Santa Ana has become the first Orange County city to allow non-U.S. citizens without legal immigration status to serve on its commissions and boards.

City council voted unanimously March 15 to amend the language of an ordinance that allows non-registered voters to run for board and commission seats. The term “qualified elector of the city” was changed to “resident of the city.”

Santa Ana “desires to remove barriers that prevent active participation by all city residents in city government,” the ordinance said. “Consistent with this philosophy is the inclusion of all residents of the city for consideration for appointment to the city’s boards and commissions.”

The amendment opens the door to noncitizens wishing to participate in the city’s policy-making decisions.

‘Removing Barriers’

In 2019, Gov. Gavin Newsom passed a bill allowing non-U.S. citizens to serve on boards and commissions in an effort to “remove barriers to service and authorize all California residents, including those without lawful immigration status … so that their perspectives and voices are heard.”

Santa Ana’s ordinance is consistent with the bill, as board and commission appointees are required only to be a resident of the city.

The city has 11 existing boards and commissions, two of which—the youth commission and Measure X citizens oversight committee—had not previously required appointees to be “qualified electors.”

Now included in the ordinance are the personnel board, community development commission, planning commission, environmental and transportation advisory commission, arts and culture commission, historic resources commission, parks and recreation and community services commission, workforce development board, and oversight board.