How local undocumented farmworkers are reacting to new California ID law

KSWB-Monterrey-Salinas, 9/26/22


On Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 1766 into law, allowing undocumented people in California to apply for state identification cards.

This will allow about 1.6 million people the ability to open a bank account, obtain benefits, access health care, and secure housing and employment, among other things.

Since 2015, undocumented Californians have been able to get a restricted driver’s license through a bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. But this new law allows those unable to get a license the ability to apply for a California ID.

“Everything requires a California ID. If we don’t have that, we can’t do anything. For us, it’s a lot of help. Like to buy a car. Well, I haven’t seen a single undocumented person buy a house, but maybe it can happen now,” said Tranquilina, a farmworker in Watsonville.

Tranquilina said even the smallest things, such as returning items at the store, can be a challenge without an ID.

“An example, if I go to a store and I buy something for my kids, and we try it on at home, and it doesn’t fit, I can’t return it because it requires a (California) ID,” Tranquilina said.

Tranquilina said she will be getting her ID when the time comes.

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“I do think I will get mine if they give it to me. I would go with a lot of excitement to get mine because it is necessary to live here in California,” Tranquilina said.

For Teresa, a street vendor selling tamales, this is life-changing. She’s been trying to buy a home for three months and has had no luck.

“I’m very emotional if it’s real. Because when I used to try and do things, I wasn’t accepted and now I’m very happy. Hopefully that it’s real and happens, I can’t believe it,” Teresa said.

Farm worker advocates, such as Ann Lopez of the Center for Farmworker Families, said this law is the first step, but more still needs to be done.

“Hopefully, they can come out of hiding and be more involved with the social economic all of the different processes that go into this society,” Lopez said.

But there are some concerns. Lopez fears that uncertainty and fear can cause some undocumented farmworkers to not apply.

“They may realize or sense that the government has their information and if there is a raid, they are going to be much easier to find,” Lopez said.

With California having a $50 billion agriculture business, immigrant farmworkers make up an estimated 73% of the workers, Lopez said they deserve basic rights.

“These are real-life human beings. They have hopes, they have dreams, they care about their families. They love people. And we are treating them like they are implements of a farming system,” Lopez said.

Local leaders, Assembly members Mark Stone and Robert Rivas are co-authors of the bill. The new law is set to take effect in 2027.

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