In our third Dignity Days event yesterday, leaders from New York, Florida, and Connecticut joined our broadcast to discuss the fight for municipal ID cards and the effect victories from those fights have had on immigrant communities around the nation.
As Juan Escalante previously noted, “over the years we have witnessed several local governments adopt municipal ID cards, which have allowed undocumented immigrants to obtain an adequate form of identification. This small, yet significant document continues to provide dignity and security to thousands of immigrants across the country.”
One prime example is Conneticut, where New Haven’s municipal ID card program (in place since 2007) has not only helped undocumented immigrants become more integrated into their communities, but has also very well likely saved lives.
The Center For Community Change’s Kica Matos discussed New Haven’s municipal ID victory and the drastic improvement it has made to the lives of New Haven’s immigrants.
While New Haven has historically been an immigrant-friendly locality (in 2006, “New Haven Police instituted a policy of not asking crime victims or witnesses about their immigration status, the first policy of its kind in Connecticut”), previous attempt to pass municipal ID cards had been unsuccessful.
However, the murder of an undocumented immigrant raised the moral urgency for passing ID cards in New Haven. Immigrants — having no identification with which to open a bank account — had been cruelly targeted for robbery. During one such robbery — Matos said victims were referred to as “walking ATMs” by thieves — an immigrant was murdered.
Advocates urged the mayor to finally address the dire need for municipal IDs, and the resulting legislation not only provides immigrants with vital peace of mind, but access to the public library, discounts for flu shots, and even doubles as a debit card and a parking meter payment method.
Bitta Mostofi, Director of External Affairs at Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, discussed a similar victory in New York City, where some 100,000 residents — citizen and undocumented alike — use municipal IDs in their daily lives.
According to Mostofi, the IDs are free, do not require applicants to state their legal status, and law enforcement and all city agencies accept the ID cards as proof of identity. The city has also partnered with banking agencies, which allow recipients to be able to open checking and savings accounts, and the card also doubles as a pass for many of New York City’s cultural centers.
Mostofi said that the card was developed with the help of local advocates, including immigration leaders, and was modeled after other cities around the nation, like Oakland and Los Angeles, that had previously adopted municipal ID card programs.
One other area of the country paying special attention to these municipal ID card victories in New York City and New Haven is Miami-Dade County in Florida, where Trenise Bryant discussed ongoing efforts to win similar legislation for Miami-Dade’s families, including undocumented immigrants.
As the Florida Immigrant Coalition previously reported, the county commission recently passed a unanimous resolution in support of creating a municipal ID for all county residents:
“The resolution, sponsored by Commissioner Juan Carlos Zapata and co-sponsored by Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, asks the County Mayor Carlos Gimenez to present a report to the County Board on whether an identification card program is feasible.”
“Within the next few weeks, the resolution could be brought to the full County Commission Board and, if approved, the Mayor will have 180 days to present the report, until December 2015.”
According to Bryant, the card would not only help immigrants gain greater access to services and agencies like banks and libraries, but would also help more vulnerable populations, like senior citizens and LGBT members of the community, who may lack certain documentation that prevents them from accessing things like Social Security.
Additionally, many of these vulnerable populations are less likely to report crimes to the police, especially crimes where they have been targeted. ID cards would not only help immigrant families when it comes to reporting crime to law enforcement, but would create safer communities at large.
The full broadcast of yesterday’s Dignity Days broadcast on municipal IDs is available to watch below.
A big thanks to Kica Matos, Bitta Mostofi, and Trenise Bryant for helping make this event possible!