The city is looking to start a municipal identification card program which will allow vulnerable populations to obtain photo IDs allowing them to access various city services, according to municipal officials.
“The goal is to have more residents cooperate with the police department and have access to community services,” said assistant corporation counsel Rachel Nguyen to council members on Tuesday night.
“Many marginalized communities lack a valid form of identification,” without which they “are afraid to report crimes to police,” or “cooperate with law enforcement,” according to the resolution before the council to create the municipal ID program.
“Make it clear to me. What will be the benefits?” asked Maritza Davila, councilwoman at-large. The program will benefit the city’s homeless, transgender, indigent, ex-inmates, and others who lack official identification, according to the resolution.
Nguyen said members of marginalized communities will be better able to take part in the civic and economic life of the city by using ID cards. She said IDs will allow residents to open bank accounts, obtain discounts, and other offers from local businesses.
Those marginalized individuals will also have less fear in reporting labor, housing, workplace, health, safety, and wage violations to authorities, according to the resolution.
“There will be a cost for the resident IDs,” said Nguyen. She said the city will charge a fee to issue the ID cards. She also noted the ID program will be tiered so that poor residents are able to obtain the cards without charge.
The IDs will be valid for two years, she said.
The city already has the machine to print the cards and has a roll out plan in place. The program will begin with the enrolment of 1,800 municipal employees.
The program’s start-up cost will have to be covered by the city. It’s not yet clear what the cost will be to run the program.
Health officer Thakur “Paul” Persaud said the city does not plan on hiring new employees for the program.
A resident will have to provide proof of residency and other documents to prove their identities before receiving a card, said officials.
Alex Mendez, councilman at-large, asked what documents he will need to prove his identity, if he were an illegal immigrant.
Proofs could include a foreign passport, said officials.
Persaud said the information that’s collected through the program will be kept in the city’s vital statistics office.
Some council members wondered why the program is not run out of the city’s police department.
Law director Domenick Stampone said similar programs in cities like New Haven and San Francisco are run out of a “neutral arena” so as to overcome the suspicion certain communities have of the police.
“I like the idea. It’s a way they can disclose themselves,” said Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, 2nd Ward councilman, referring to illegal aliens.
Michael Jackson, 1st Ward councilman, asked about the technology the city will use to create these cards. He wanted to know whether they will be based on biometric identification so as to have at least a fingerprint on the card.
Stampone said high tech cards, even one with a fingerprint, may cost much more to the city.
Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres, who came out in support of granting undocumented immigrants driving privilege, late last year, sought to get the council’s approval for the program last year.
Council members postponed any action on the measure. The measure will not be up for a vote at the regular meeting of the council next week. It was taken of the agenda.
Torres did not return a call for comment on Wednesday morning.
Torres abortively attempted to start the program without going through the council, according to sources.
Municipal ID programs have been used around the country to assist undocumented immigrants to obtain official identification cards.