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| Immigrant Rights - Expanding Municipal ID Cards

City Council Holds First Hearings Today on "Municipal ID" Program in Council Chambers

April 30, 2014
Contact: TJ Helmstetter, Center for Popular Democracy (973) 464-9224; tjhelm@populardemocracy.org 
Daniel Coates, Make the Road New York(347) 489-7085; daniel.coates@maketheroadny.org

City Council Holds First Hearings Today on "Municipal ID" Program in Council Chambers

Advocates: Municipal IDs Will Benefit ALL New Yorkers & Provide Critical Services

(NEW YORK) Earlier this year, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced plans to make city-issued identification cards available for all New Yorkers, which would particularly help residents who otherwise have limited access to identification documents, including immigrants and homeless New Yorkers. Similar municipal ID programs are in place in ten cities nationwide, as noted in the Center for Popular Democracy's report, "Who We Are: Municipal ID Cards as a Local Strategy to Promote Belonging and Shared Community Identity." 
Today, the City Council held its first hearings on the bill introduced earlier this month. Advocates attended the hearing in support of the measure, which will improve interactions between residents and law enforcement, make cardholders less vulnerable to crime, and improve quality of life for the most vulnerable New Yorkers. Earlier today, U.S. Representatives Joe Crowley, Grace Meng, Jerry Nadler, and Nydia Velazquez have each signaled their support for the proposal.
See below for quotes from advocates in support of the measure. 
Ana Maria Archila, co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy: “Municipal ID cards are an important step toward raising the quality of life for our city's most vulnerable and marginalized residents, including immigrants, and this proposal will make a powerful difference for thousands of New Yorkers. Increasingly, identification requirements gate-keep almost every aspect of daily life. It is imperative that we open more doors to opportunity for all New Yorkers, and this is a step in the right direction.”

Juan Carlos Gomez, member of Make the Road New York: "When I lost my ID I went into the shadows. I couldn't buy medicine for my allergies, couldn't rent an apartment, and was always scared about being stopped by the police. With a NYC ID I know thousands of other undocumented people like me will have more confidence to be a stronger part of this City." 

Linda Sarsour, Executive Director, Arab American Association of New York: "All New York City residents regardless of immigration status deserve a government issued ID that gives them access to municipal buildings, bank accounts, and more. Government and the private sector need to come together to ensure that this ID has a broad appeal to ALL New Yorkers. This card should represent our New York City pride and everyone should want to get one." 
Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition: "The New York Immigration Coalition is proud to stand behind the municipal ID initiative, because a more inclusive New York is a better New York! This inclusive identity card system will help overcome some of the barriers immigrant communities face in their daily lives, and should facilitate access for all New Yorkers to leases, libraries, discounts, municipal services, and more.  We look forward to working with the Mayor, City Council, and our diverse Coalition members and allies to make it as useful as possible."

Anya Mukarji-Connolly, Supervising Attorney at NYLAG LGBT Law Project: “The LGBT Law Project at the New York Legal Assistance Group applauds Mayor de Blasio, Speaker Mark-Viverito, and City Council Members Dromm and Menchaca for spearheading this critically important bill that would help ensure that transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers have access to valid identification cards that accurately reflect their gender.  Access to valid ID is particularly important for transgender communities who face discrimination, harassment, and violence when they don’t have accurate ID.  For this opportunity to have the most impact in transgender communities, the process for selecting gender on the Municipal ID card must be one in which applicants can self-identify, without showing burdensome proof of gender through doctor's letters or medical treatment which make accurate ID cards inaccessible to many people.” 

Elana Redfield, from the Sylvia Rivera Law Project: "The municipal ID is a great opportunity for transgender communities, especially transgender immigrants, to obtain ID documents that accurately reflect their gender. Mismatched Id is a source of many challenges for transgender community members.  Showing a mismatched ID can lead to humiliation, harassment, workplace or housing discrimination, or denial of services.  For the ID to be most effective, it must allow for individuals to self-select their gender rather than imposing medical requirements or other obstacles that cannot be met by our most vulnerable community members." 
Arely Gonzalez, Member of Make the Road New York LGBTQ project: "As an undocumented transgender woman I know how a lack of ID makes me feel. I need an ID that shows my gender and my name. I wouldn't carry around anything else, because we face discrimination from the police, and others as a result. The NYC ID would be very important to many transgender New Yorkers because of that. We should all be able to express our gender identity." 

Alisa Wellek, Co-Executive Director, Immigrant Defense Project: "We are grateful for New York City's leadership in creating a municipal ID program that balances accessibility for all New Yorkers while also safeguarding privacy and the right to define one's gender.  An ID can prove critical to de-escalating and preventing an arrest, which has particular importance for immigrants who are increasingly at risk of deportation when encountering police.This ID is the right step toward ensuring equal access to services and protections for all New Yorkers." 

Jean Rice, Picture the Homeless member: "The status quo needs to create an identification document that is acceptable across all levels of inquiry, including the police department, that is standardized and not discretionary."

Grace Shim, Executive Director of the MinKwon Center for Community Action: "An estimated 180,000 undocumented Asian Americans live in the New York metro area. We are excited by the potential of the Municipal ID card to make our City more inclusive and accessible for all. In order to ensure that the card does not become a proxy for immigration status, however, the City must broadly market the adoption of this card to all New Yorkers.  From discounts to cultural institutions and financial service capabilities, the City should explore many creative ideas for integration."

José Calderón, President of the Hispanic Federation: "Hispanic Federation thanks Mayor de Blasio, Councilmembers Dromm and Menchaca for their leadership and making it a top priority for all New Yorkers to have access to proper identification. This municipal ID will not only provide a sense of security for all New Yorkers, but will benefit our city as a whole. All of us - low-income individuals, seniors and undocumented immigrants - deserve easy accessibility to identification, heightening safety and equality in our great city."
Jesus Castellanos, Make the Road New York youth member: "When I was assaulted I did not want to tell the police because I was scared to approach them without an ID. It's not right that a young person like me should have to do this. A municipal ID will build trust and create a safer New York for all people." 
Rev. Omar Almonte, Central Baptist Church: "As a man of faith and a spiritual leader of an immigrant community, I firmly believe that this proposal for a New York City ID to help document the undocumented, would be a just and righteous act, because it would strengthen our community. They and their families live, work, study and are crucial parts of our city now and in the future, and this law would create a fairer, more just place for us all." 

Fr. Hoppe Pastor of St. Leo Catholic Church: "As people of faith, we believe that having valid identification for all New Yorkers will offer renewed hope and human dignity to those who have struggled far too long. In my congregation, I witness the daily pain of mothers unable to bring their children to school for fear of being deported. We fully support this initiative to provide a pathway to all New Yorkers to have the same access to economic and civic opportunities in our city.” 

Lucia Gomez, La Fuente Executive Director: “This is a very historic time for the city, municipal IDs will serve nearly half a million residents (including immigrants, the homeless, low-income and the elderly). It will protected our value for inclusion and will be consistent with our security needs. We stand committed to work with the city council to see the bill pass implemented in the upcoming months.”

Valeria Treves, executive director NICE: “A NYC municipal ID is a step in right direction to becoming a city that truly recognizes the contributions of all of the city’s residents, including the city’s undocumented workers and families. We must now work to ensure that it's easily accessible to all immigrants and others who face challenges attaining an ID, and work closely with key departments, such as the NYPD, to ensure that officers recognize the card as valid ID and respect the rights and dignity of the card holder.”