Illegal immigrants in California may soon be able to obtain state IDs because of a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who called it a critical step for inclusion and participation.
An additional 1.6 million people living in the state will qualify for state-issued identification following the governor’s signature.
“We’re a state of refuge—a majority-minority state, where 27 percent of us are immigrants. That’s why I’m proud to announce the signing of today’s bills to further support our immigrant community, which makes our state stronger every single day,” he added.
AB 1766, authored by Assemblyman Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley), will go into effect no later than July 1, 2027.
Groups such as Asian Americans Advancing Justice–California, California Immigrant Policy Center, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights supported the legislation.
“As one of the co-sponsors of AB 1766, we have seen firsthand what it means for those who cannot access an official identification card,” said Connie Chung Joe, CEO of Asian Americans Advancing Justice–Southern California. “It’s not only morally wrong to deny these residents what most of us take for granted like opening a bank account and registering our children for school, but nonsensical to withhold the State ID for non-drivers when undocumented residents can obtain a driver’s license.”
Raul Rodriguez of America First Latinos, who said the legislation would undermine federal immigration law, visited State Sen. Josh Newman's (D-Fullerton) office in August with other opponents to urge the legislator to vote against the measure.
The new law makes it easier for illegal immigrants to access government benefits, secure housing, obtain health care, and open bank accounts, according to Stone.
It also prohibits the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) from sharing applicants’ data with law enforcement agencies when requested, "except in response to a subpoena for individual records in a criminal proceeding or a court order, or in response to a law enforcement request to address an urgent health or safety need," according to the bill. It specifies that immigration enforcement "does not constitute an urgent health and safety need."
Residents won't be allowed to use identification cards for background checks when purchasing or transferring firearms, firearm parts, or ammunition.
According to the Senate Appropriations Committee, the DMV estimates "significant one-time up-front costs, potentially in the millions," to implement the changes required by the new law.