The new program will become the largest of its kind in the country when it rolls out next January, giving all New York City residents access to proper identification.
That opportunity will change the lives of many, including nearly half a million undocumented immigrants; many New Yorkers who do not hold a driver’s license; members of the transgender community, who will be able to self-identify their gender on the card; the homeless; and young people in foster care, who do not have access to their birth documents.
“A lot of people work very hard in this city to make ends meet,” de Blasio said a the bill signing last week. “They contribute to this city in many ways. Everyone should have the same opportunities, and that’s what this ID card aims to allow.
“And also moves us away from such counterproductive dynamics,” he added. “If people needed an apartment and couldn’t get one, that’s not good for the city. If people who needed to work with the police didn’t feel that they could, that’s not good for the city. We’re taking actions that are going to help us all.”
The municipal ID legislation was pushed through the City Council by council members Carlos Menchaca and Danny Dromm, who sponsored the bill.
At the signing, Dromm noted the importance of this legislation in light of recent national events and the government’s response to undocumented children crossing the U.S. border to join their families or escape their violent home countries.
“The ability of us to come up with this solution illustrates how New York City has always stepped up to such challenges,” Dromm said. “Where the federal authorities have failed to act, New York City has stepped up to ensure all of us, including our recent immigrant neighbors, have the opportunity to succeed here.”
Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito agreed, saying that the city is “sending a very strong message that I know will resonate and be heard nationwide.”
“What government is about is helping people,” she said. “It’s about giving a voice to those who have been marginalized or oppressed, and it’s about letting people know their representatives are listening. That is why this is more than just an ID card.”
The program will not begin for another six months, during which time the city will finalize details such as what documents will be accepted for ID card applications and work with private institutions like banks to ensure that they will accept the ID card for future transactions.
Nisha Agarwal, commissioner of the Office of Immigrant Affairs, assured that individuals will not be asked about their immigration status during the application process.
She also said that the city has instituted a number of precautions to protect the confidentiality of applicants and to protect individuals from becoming the victims of identity theft.
One of those precautions involves storing documents containing applicants’ personal information for two years, after which they will be destroyed.
This stipulation caused the New York Civil Liberties Union to withdraw its support from the program, claiming it will leave immigrant cardholders vulnerable to police and federal immigration officials.
Agarwal said that access to the documents by law enforcement will only occur when there is a judicial warrant or subpoena.
“We feel very confident about the security and the confidentiality of these cards,” she said.
The cards will be free for the first year, and individuals will be able to apply for cards through mobile enrollment units, online applications and walk-in enrollment centers at trusted institutions, such as the Brooklyn Public Library, where the mayor signed the new bill.