Ducey signs bill recognizing validity of consular ID cards




consular cards
A matrícula consular from Mexico. Photo courtesy of Consulate General of Mexico in Phoenix

Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill that would end a ban on state agencies and local governments recognizing the validity of consular identification cards.

In a press statement on Friday, Ducey said Senate Bill 1420 “enhances public safety by offering a secure, reliable form of identification to be accepted in Arizona.”

SB1420 and its mirror proposal House Bill 2489 were introduced by Republican lawmakers Sen. Paul Boyer of Glendale and Rep. David Cook of Globe. The proposal earned board bipartisan support and was approved on Feb. 24

The new law allows photo ID cards issued by a foreign consulate to be recognized statewide as a valid form of identification if the agency that issues them uses biometric verification like fingerprints and retina scans to verify the holder’s identity. 

Ducey and other advocates for the measure vouched for the public safety benefits of the policy change.

“This legislation will ensure that law enforcement is able to quickly and accurately identify more of the individuals with whom they interact,” Ducey said. “This is critical to ensure safety for both law enforcement and the public.”

A 2011 state law barred the use of consular cards as valid identification in Arizona as part of a larger effort at the time to pass legislation to push undocumented immigrants out of the state, according to The Arizona Republic.

Ducey said the new law doesn’t give any new benefits to Arizona residents who are also citizens of other countries. 

“The bill does not authorize any new rights or responsibilities for non-citizens,” he said. “It simply recognizes that governments in Arizona will accept cards issued by countries who use strict biometrics identity verification techniques as lawful identification.”

SB1420 is one of a few bills moving through the legislature this year that would undo policies enacted during a heightened era of anti-immigrant sentiment in Arizona. Those measures include one that would repeal a voter-approved mandate on how English-lanaguage learners are taught and another to open up eligibility for in-state tuition and financial aid to young undocumented state residents. Both proposals have been approved in their chambers of origin.

The new consular ID law is expected to affect Arizona residents who are citizens of Mexico and Guatemala, which have consulates that issue photo IDs that meet the fingerprint and retina scans requirements.

Jorge Mendoza Yescas, consul general of Mexico in Phoenix, celebrated Ducey’s signing of the bill and said the new law has broader implications than just a policy change.

“This signature is a message of recognition to the contributions of the Hispanic and Mexican community to the state, and it’s also a gesture of friendship towards the country of Mexico,” he said. 

Mendoza Yescas said he traveled to about 30 cities and towns in central and northern Arizona to educate police departments and county sheriffs on the security standards used to issue a consular identification, known as “matrícula consular.”

In the past 15 years, the Consulate General of Mexico in Phoenix has issued about 200,000 matrículas, he said. Mendoza Yescas said that while the law will be beneficial to public safety efforts, he expects more private sector institutions to recognize the Mexican matrículas.

“I expect the public safety work to improve in the state, but also for there to be an uptick in local economic activity,” he said. 

For the past several years, Democratic lawmakers proposed bills to end the prohibition on recognizing foreign consular cards. Advocates had argued, for example, that Mexico’s government uses the same security standards to issue a consular card that they use for a passport, which is an accepted form of photo ID in Arizona. Last year, a Republican-sponsored bill passed the House but never got considered in the Senate when the session was abruptly halted amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Mendoza Yescas thanked Boyer, Cook and other lawmakers who worked in previous sessions to get this reform through, including Rep. César Chávez, D-Phoenix, and Sen. Rebecca Rios, D-Phoenix, former Republican lawmaker Tony Rivero of Peoria. 

Laura Gómez
Reporter Laura Gómez Rodriguez covers state politics and immigration for the Arizona Mirror. She worked for The Arizona Republic and La Voz Arizona for four years, covering city government, economic development, immigration, politics and trade. In 2017, Laura traveled the length of the U.S.-Mexico border for “The Wall,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning project produced by The Arizona Republic and USA Today Network. She was named Best Investigative Reporter by Phoenix Magazine in its 2018 newspaper category and has been honored by the Arizona Press Club for Spanish-language news and feature reporting. She is a native of Bogotá, Colombia and lived in Puerto Rico and Boston before moving to Phoenix in 2014. Catch her researching travel deals, feasting on mariscos or playing soccer.