Id card for the undocumented

As many await the implementation of President Obama’s executive action on immigration which stands to benefit some 5 million undocumented immigrants, a growing number of cities and states have also initiated measures to help the undocumented better integrate in their communities.

In New York City, the largest municipal identification program in the country has been launched offering municipal ID cards to all New Yorkers age 14 or older regardless of their immigration status.

The municipal ID card or IDNYC will provide undocumented immigrants access to city services, programs, and benefits, which were previously not available to them because of lack of a government-issued ID.

The ID card which will be accepted as identification in more than 10 financial institutions will allow them to open an account with these banks and credit unions. This will also address the problems faced daily by undocumented immigrants who are not able to fill a prescription, sign an apartment lease, gain access to city schools and offices, and other such undertakings requiring a photo ID. With this ID card, they can now provide identification to police officers when asked for it.

The program is expected to benefit not only the estimated 500,000 undocumented immigrants, but all New Yorkers living in the city, especially the most vulnerable residents, such as the homeless and the elderly.

All New Yorkers are encouraged to get the IDNYC card so that it will not be easy to identify undocumented immigrants simply by their use of the card. To entice all New Yorkers to obtain the ID card, IDNYC cardholders will also enjoy free one-year membership at the Bronx Zoo, City Ballet, and other top zoos, museums, concert halls, and botanical gardens in the city.

According to Mayor Bill de Blasio, “New York City has always been the place for inclusion and possibility. We defend that. And this ID epitomizes keeping this an open city.”

Data gathered through the program will not be shared with immigration authorities and other government agencies except for verification purposes of the applicant’s eligibility for additional city benefits and only in response to a judicial subpoena or a warrant.

To obtain the IDNYC card, applicants are required to submit documents proving their identity and city residency which include passports, birth certificates, and driver’s licenses, among others. There are currently 12 enrollment centers across the five boroughs and enrollment for this year is free.

Aside from New York, cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland in California, and New Haven in Connecticut, have also established municipal ID programs.

Meanwhile in California, undocumented immigrants can now apply for driver’s licenses. An estimated 1.5 million immigrants are expected to apply for driver’s licenses in three years’ time. The new policy is expected to make the road safer and improve public safety.

The law allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses also took effect in Connecticut. Around 28,000 undocumented immigrants have already scheduled an appointment for their driver’s test.

Other states which have enacted law offering driver’s license to the undocumented include Washington state, New Mexico, Utah, Illinois, Nevada, Maryland, Vermont and Colorado. The District of Columbia and Puerto Rico also issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.

In Illinois, immigration status alone would no longer be valid for state police to detain a person. Outgoing Gov. Pat Quinn issued the executive order so that immigrants who are victims of or witnesses to crime will be more willing to cooperate with law enforcement.

These measures initiated by states and local officials, will without doubt, not only make the lives of the immigrants bearable, but more importantly, allow them to contribute more and be productive in their communities.