City ID Cards

by Joseph McKeown

During his campaign, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio had a number of proposals and plans to help the City's immigrants. These included allowing undocumented New Yorkers access to driver's licenses, ending law enforcement cooperation with federal "Detainer Requests" for violations except in the case of violent and serious felonies, cutting red tape for immigrant domestic violence victims obtaining visas, and a City ID card for undocumented immigrants to make it easier to open a bank account and lease an apartment as well as to improve police relations. The mayor is actively pursing this last campaign pledge announcing last week that these cards "would help immigrant residents without legal status participate more fully in civic life." The mayor said moreover that "we will not force any of our residents to live their lives in the shadows.”

The New York Times is hosting a debate about whether a city should grant these types of ID cards. Kica Matos, director of immigrant rights and racial justice at the Center for Community Change, writes that a similar ID card in New Haven, Connecticut "greatly improved the relationship between the immigrant community and the police" and that also brought a "level of dignity. Immigrants now know they truly belong and are a part of New Haven." Steven A. Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, says the mayor by granting these ID cards is "willfully and explicitly trying to undermine federal immigration law. There is no difference between what the mayor is proposing than if he was helping people cheat on their federal income tax or violate any federal law."