Last week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a state law into effect allowing illegal immigrants to obtain state-issued IDs.
The bill was met with stern resistance from state’s few Republican State Assembly members and senators, but their votes were not enough to stop the legislation from reaching Mr. Newsom’s desk. The Democratic governor, who has repeatedly tried to insert himself into the national limelight this year in competition with GOP Govs. Greg Abbott of Texas and John DeSantis of Florida, enthusiastically justified the law’s passage.
“We’re a state of refuge, a majority-minority state, where 27 percent of us are immigrants,” Mr. Newsom said after signing the bill. “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.”
The new law, AB 1766, known as “California IDs for All,” is a step further from the Golden State’s previous 2013 landmark legislation, which allowed illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. Since then, several other states have followed suit.
The new ID bill was introduced in February by four Democratic assembly members who framed the California identification cards as “passports to economic and societal participation,” making it easier for illegal immigrants to work, utilize banks and apply for government benefits.
“Lack of identification is one of the largest barriers to success into the community because IDs are essential to securing employment, housing, and social services,” said one of the bill’s sponsors, Mark Stone. “AB 1766 is an essential gateway to social inclusion and should be a basic necessity that every resident has access to.”
“This bill brings equity to those who have been unable to access basic life essentials because they have no legally recognized identification,” said Assemblyman Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer. “What many of us take for granted — having an ID — will have life-changing ramifications for many in the immigrant and disabled communities.”
We do not disagree with the observations of Messrs. Stone or Jones-Sawyer in that lack of state or federal identification creates barriers to securing employment, housing and social services. But that’s precisely the reason issuing such identification cards to illegal immigrants sets a dangerous precedent and creates an incentive for more migrants to cross the border illegally.
Issuing state identification cards is a form of recognizing one’s legitimacy, which means the state of California is either effectively disregarding or potentially even preempting the federal naturalization system. It also sends the wrong message south of the border. If foreign citizens think they can come to California and get a job, find housing and apply for social services, they have more incentive to risk their lives trying to reach and illegally cross the border.
But California isn’t the only lower jurisdiction in the country to effectively dismiss the federal naturalization system. In December, the City Council of New York passed a law that would have allowed 800,000 permanent legal residents and people with authorization to work in the U.S. the right to vote in municipal elections.
Among the many dangers in enacting such a law would be arming noncitizens with the power to elect their fellow residents as City Council members and mayor, giving new city candidates a credible starting point to later run for state and federal office. Had the New York City law passed constitutional muster, there was no limit to how far a city politician could go in the state or congressional system, despite building their career on votes from noncitizens.
A lawsuit filed by the Republican National Committee also raised concerns about whether implementation of the law would also result in noncitizens ending up on voter registration rolls for state and local elections. As a result, the New York Supreme Court struck down the city law, saying it violated the state constitution.
“The City of New York cannot ‘obviate’ the restrictions imposed by the Constitution,” the court wrote. Simply put, the city could not disregard state law — just as the state of California should not disregard or try to preempt the federal naturalization system.
Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution of the United States makes clear in that only Congress has the power “To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization … throughout the United States.”
It is our position that such power is plenary, and there is only one naturalization system, and that is the federal system. It should not be disregarded manipulated, preempted or tampered with by local city or state governments in any capacity.