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Expanding Municipal ID Cards

Broadening Access to Municipal Identification Cards

Across the country, a growing number of municipalities have begun to issue “municipal ID cards” to their residents. These municipal identification cards typically feature the photo and address of the cardholder while also allowing access to important benefits, such as library, pre-paid debit, transportation or parking services. Although available to all residents of a city, the cards are particularly valuable for the most vulnerable community members -- undocumented immigrants, the homeless, foster youth, the elderly and others who may have difficulty obtaining and retaining other...

Across the country, a growing number of municipalities have begun to issue “municipal ID cards” to their residents. These municipal identification cards typically feature the photo and address of the cardholder while also allowing access to important benefits, such as library, pre-paid debit, transportation or parking services. Although available to all residents of a city, the cards are particularly valuable for the most vulnerable community members -- undocumented immigrants, the homeless, foster youth, the elderly and others who may have difficulty obtaining and retaining other government-issued ID.

Without valid photo ID, many immigrants are unable to open bank accounts, compromising their ability to save and making them vulnerable to attack. Without valid photo ID, parents are unable to enter their children’s public school buildings and participate actively in their education.

Such identification cards also allow individuals to establish identity when interacting with law enforcement, preventing unnecessary detention. In addition, the cards benefit the city itself, fostering greater connectivity to important urban institutions, providing access to vital locations where photo ID is required, and creating a sense of unity within or identification with the city.

Supported by the J.M. Kaplan Fund, CPD researched municipal ID card policies across the country and published a report highlighting best practices. In July 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation to create New York City’s first ever municipal ID card program. The move was the result of months of advocacy by a broad and deep coalition of organizations across the city that work on a range of issues from immigrant rights to homelessness to LGBTQ issue sto privacy rights. CPD played a leading role in the coalition, which continues to work closely with the administration as plans heat up to issue the first New York City ID cards by January 2015. In September, the Mayor announced a range of benefits that will attach to the card, including discounts at over 30 New York City cultural institutions, which will be key to insuring wide adoption of the card.

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