House votes to end ban on use of consular cards as IDs

    consular cards
    The state House of Representatives approved House Bill 2604 on March 4, to end a law that prohibits state and local governments from accepting as valid identification photo-ID cards issued by foreign consulates, like the ‘matrícula consular’ from Mexico pictured. Photo courtesy of Consulate General of Mexico in Phoenix

    The state House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a measure to end a 2011 law that prohibits state and local governments from recognizing consular identification cards.

    House Bill 2604, sponsored by Rep. Tony Rivero, a Republican from Peoria, passed on a bipartisan vote of 41-19. HB2604 allows photo-ID cards issued by a foreign consulate to be recognized statewide as a valid form of identification, if fingerprint and retina scans are used.

    Rivero said he expects HB2604 to mostly impact Arizona residents who are citizens of Mexico and Guatemala, which have consulates that issue photo IDs that meet the fingerprint and retina scans requirements.   

    The proposal still has to get through the Senate. 

    “The legislative process is a long one, and obviously we got (HB2604) out of the House which was a big hurdle,” Rivero said. “Now we have to make the case to Democrats and Republicans in the Senate that this is good policy.”

    On the House floor Wednesday, Republican Reps. David Cook of Globe and Bob Thorpe of Flagstaff said HB2604 will benefit public safety because it helps law enforcement identify people more quickly.

    For the past four years, Democratic lawmakers have 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 known as “matrícula consular” that they use for a passport, which is an accepted form of photo ID in Arizona. 

    House sends ‘positive message’ to Mexicans 

    The 2011 law forbidding the use of consular cards as valid identification in Arizona was part of a larger effort at the time to pass legislation to push immigrants with no authorization to live and work in the country out of the state, according to The Arizona Republic.

    Jorge Mendoza Yescas, consul general of Mexico in Phoenix, said the House approval of HB2604 sends a “very positive message” to Mexico, its citizens living in Arizona and those of Mexican-American heritage.

    “For us it’s a very positive message … that behind us are the times when Arizona stood out for being a laboratory for anti-immigrant, anti-Mexican policies that hurt the relationship with Mexico a lot,” Mendoza Yescas said. “I think this is a recognition in the House of Representatives, and we hope by the whole Arizona government, of the relationship that exists with Mexico, and the value and contributions of Mexicans to Arizona.”

    Since 2007, the Consulate General of Mexico in Phoenix (which covers all of Arizona except its southern region) has issued approximately 160,000 consular cards, he said. The matrículas are used to register Mexican citizens who live abroad, and can be used in any transaction with the Mexican government, both in the country and outside. They don’t verify the person’s U.S. immigration status.

    Mendoza Yescas said since the 2011 law there has been a reduction of about 40% to 50% in the number of matrículas issued. He said there’s more than half a million Arizona residents who were born in Mexico, and almost 2 million who identify as Mexican and Mexican-American.

    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.