Last May, the Los Angeles City Council voted for a six-month pilot experiment for the city and the Police Department to officially recognize matricula consular identity cards issued by the Mexican government to Mexican nationals living in the United States. The council must now decide whether to make acceptance of the card permanent.
The ID cards, which do not bear the holder's fingerprints, are issued without requiring the applicant to submit to a criminal background check. Although LAPD officers must accept the card as official identification when issuing a citation, the card's information cannot be verified or used to check criminal records or immigration status.
The ID cards may also be used to apply for social services, open bank accounts, cash checks, sign leases and rental agreements and board airplanes. The IDs are not recognized by the Immigration and Naturalization Service and do not grant legal status to the bearers.
L.A.'s recognition of only Mexican ID cards may be in violation of the U.S. Constitution. The 14th Amendment not only guarantees that all people be granted equal protection under the law, it also requires that all laws be enforced equally. If a city accepts Mexican IDs as legal identification for undocumented Mexican immigrants without offering the same treatment to undocumented immigrants of other nationalities, it is selectively enforcing laws. Guatemala, El Salvador and Poland are creating IDs for their own nationals. If a city offers to recognize IDs from all countries, it will be making immigration law, which is Congress' job.