Newsom Signs Bill Allowing IDs for Illegal Immigrants

Newsom Signs Bill Allowing IDs for Illegal Immigrants
Young people wait in line to enter the office of The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles on Aug. 15, 2012. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/GettyImages)
Jill McLaughlin

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.

“California is expanding opportunity for everyone, regardless of immigration status,” Newsom said in a Sept. 23 statement after signing Assembly Bill 1766 and several other measures that provide additional related benefits.

“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.

The measure supplements a law passed in 2013 that allows undocumented residents to obtain driver’s licenses. Now, all residents, regardless of their ability to drive or provide proof that their presence in the United States is authorized, can get IDs.

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.

"Anyone coming through this country needs to do it legally," he said in a video of the visit posted online. "We have state and federal laws that need to be upheld."

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.

Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.