Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ administration has revived a controversial plan to issue municipal identification cards through the city’s health department to undocumented immigrants.
Torres administration officials said the program will help not only undocumented immigrants, but also residents without photo identification cards.
Health department director Donna Nelson-Ivy said it will help the city’s homeless population in accessing social, library, and medical services.
“This is for all Patersonians. It’s for whomever wants one as long as you are a resident of Paterson,” responded law director Domenick Stampone when asked whether the program is geared towards undocumented immigrants.
“So the ID will be available to undocumented immigrants as well?” asked Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, last Tuesday.
“It would include anyone who can show proof they live in the city of Paterson. We’d not ask their immigration status,” said Stampone.
Morris said he is not comfortable with the proposed program. Stampone pointed to other cities like New Haven and San Francisco that have similar programs.
“I don’t care about New Haven. I live here. I really don’t care what other cities have done,” responded Morris.
Stampone at one point attempted to sell the program as a humanitarian endeavor that will benefit vulnerable populations.
“Do you have a similar program in Haledon?” asked Morris.
Stampone, who serves as the mayor of the neighboring town, indicated his town did not.
Morris said the Silk City will follow suit when Stampone’s community decides to roll out a municipal identification program.
Other council members expressed support for the program.
“I’m in full support of this idea because there are many illegal immigrants in this city that don’t have documents,” said Alex Mendez, councilman at-large. When his colleagues pointed out “illegal immigrant” is a loaded term, he substituted the phrase for “undocumented” immigrants.
Though he supports the program Mendez wanted to know the cost to run the program. Nelson-Ivy said the program will provide free ID cards to residents. She said the cost ranges from $7,000 to $13,000.
Council president William McKoy, who said he supports the initiative, said the city should not cater to homeless individuals, many of whom originate from other towns.
“We don’t necessarily want to cater to that population,” said McKoy. His remarks followed Morris’ statement about neighboring communities dropping off their problem residents to the city.
“Most of the homeless folks didn’t start out with living in Paterson,” said Morris when Nelson-Ivy said the program will assist the homeless. He also found fault with a provision in the resolution which states the applicant need only to prove he has lived in the city for 15 days.
Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman, said the program will assist elderly residents without photo identification cards. However, those residents do not need to wait on the municipal ID program.
The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission issues more robust photo ID cards to residents who are able to present the necessary identifying documents. The commission requires a New Jersey resident to meet the six-point ID requirements prior to issuing the ID card for $24, according to the state.
The Torres administration pushed for the program in mid-March, but council members tabled the measure until it was revived again last Tuesday. At one point, Torres even attempted to start up the program without the council’s approval, according to municipal sources.
The council will vote on the municipal identification program measure at its regular meeting on Tuesday night.