New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio held a public hearing and put the spotlight on the New York City ID card for immigrants. The City Council voted, on June 26th, to create the municipal ID cards. Now the trick is figuring out how the largest ID program in the nation will work.
The cards will be available for undocumented immigrants, the elderly, homeless people and those who are transgender and have difficulty getting documentation. The city will issue the cards in late 2014 or early 2015 at a cost of about $8.4 million to launch.
Critics of the program say that it will make undocumented immigrants easier for federal authorities to find and deport. But immigration advocates and those who will benefit embraced the plan. Juan Carlos Gomez, an undocumented immigrant with the activist group Make the Road By Walking, said, “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.”
At the City Hall hearing, Mayor de Blasio thanked Nisha Agarwal, the commissioner for the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. She’ll spearhead the initiative and put it into practice.
The Mayor said, “The need for a municipal ID program is clear. There’s a large percentage of New Yorkers who do not have a New York State driver’s license – probably disproportionate to any city in the country, since so many people here do not own a car and do not drive. So you have a lot of people who don’t have that most basic form of ID across all demographics. And then, for those who are undocumented, or for folks who have been in other ways left out in our society, the municipal ID card represents a ticket out of the shadows.
“For example, for undocumented immigrants, many just don’t have a universally accepted form of ID. This will be the first time for many many New Yorkers to have that basic document that makes it possible to get a lease, to get a bank account, to get a library card, to get so many of the things that make day-to-day life possible. Hundreds of thousands of our fellow New Yorkers – people who are part of our communities, our neighborhoods, but don’t have those basic opportunities – the municipal ID card is going to open up those opportunities to them.
“For transgendered people, this will be the first time they’ll be able to choose their own gender marker on an ID recognized by the NYPD and other city service providers.
“For homeless New Yorkers, this is going to be a card that will allow them to get access to city services and other help they need more easily.
“And a muni ID is going to be more than just a simple ID card. We’re working hard to create a card that New Yorkers across the spectrum are going to want in their wallets, because we’re collaborating with private institutions to develop an array of benefits and discounts that will come with having a municipal ID card. These are being worked on and all of this will be finalized and launched towards the end of this year. A lot of people in this administration are working very hard, led by Nisha, to bring all these pieces together so we can get this up and running for people who need it in New York City.
“Now that’s what the card is. Let me tell you what the card is not. It’s important to note that the municipal ID card will not conflict with state or federal legal limitations. We’ve taken those into account very specifically as we’ve built out this plan. And the municipal ID card is not appropriate for use in transactions involving interstate or international travel. It’s for people in New York City to use in New York City. And we think it’s going to make a big difference in their lives here.”