Council adopts citywide municipal ID program
by Jess Berry
Jun 30, 2014 | 1216 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Last Thursday marked a victory for undocumented immigrants, the homeless and the LGBT community, as well as many other New Yorkers, as the City Council passed legislation for a municipal identification program that will be the largest of its kind in the U.S.

The program will allow all New York City residents to obtain an ID regardless of their immigration status, and it will allow ID holders to self-attest to their gender.

“Every New Yorker deserves an official identification that allows them to prove who they are and access core services,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “The municipal ID is more than just a card – it provides New Yorkers who are currently living in the shadows with dignity and peace of mind. My administration is fully ready to develop this plan and to swiftly implement a secure and accessible Municipal ID Card program.”

City agencies are required to accept the card wherever identification is needed to provide access to city services. The program is meant to ease access to public school and libraries, and the IDs are supposed to be able to be used to open bank accounts.

The ID card will include a photo, name, date of birth, address and an expiration date. To obtain a card, individuals will have to demonstrate their identity — which can be done with a foreign birth certificate — and their residency in New York City through a utility bill, apartment lease, a document stating the person has a child enrolled in public school or a paycheck, for example.

The final list of acceptable documents has not yet been decided upon.

For its inaugural year, the budget for the project is $8.4 million. It is expected to cost $5.6 million annually in years following.

The bill was introduced by council members Carlos Menchaca and Daniel Dromm. The Council passed the bill with a vote of 43 to 3, with two abstentions.

“Countless people, from the immigrant family in Sunset Park to the transgender youth in Jackson Heights, will now have access to identification vital to performing basic daily tasks, from accessing city buildings to opening bank accounts,” Dromm said.

City residents are excited for the benefits of the IDs. Juan Carlos Gomez, an undocumented member of Make the Road New York, thanked politicians for creating an identification system “that will work for all New Yorkers.”

“I know what it is to not have an ID, and I know this card will go a long way to building trust and confidence with immigrant communities and local authorities,” Gomez said. “We are glad to have taken this critical step and towards a stronger, more unified New York City.”

Much of the work still lies ahead, however, and many politicians are supportive but wary of how effective the cards will be without incentivizing residents to apply for them.

One problem is that many will see the ID as a marker for undocumented immigrants, which may deter some New Yorkers from getting a card.

Executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition Steven Choi called the legislation a “significant victory,” but stated the importance of having wide-spread use of the cards.

“Our work is not yet finished. The success of the municipal ID will hinge on proper implementation and its popularity with the broader public,” Choi said. “We look forward to working with Mayor de Blasio and his administration to ensure that the information shared to apply for the ID is safely guarded and the widespread adoption of the ID by all New Yorkers."

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