NYC Braces for Rush of Immigrants Wanting New Identity Cards

Wednesday, 12 Feb 2014 09:04 AM

By Drew MacKenzie

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New York City’s plan to issue municipal identification cards, which has been slammed for potentially aiding illegal immigration, is expected to draw thousands of undocumented immigrants.

The program, approved earlier this week by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, will mean that immigrants, legal or otherwise, along with the homeless and disenfranchised residents, can receive the new ID cards, according to the New York Post.

The applicants will have to show up in person to receive cards and have some proof of identity, such as a foreign passport or other documentation, and they must also present proof of city residency, such as a lease or a utility bill.

During his State of the City address on Monday, the mayor followed through with his campaign pledge to introduce city ID cards, although they must first be approved by the City Council,The New York Times reports.

“To all of my fellow New Yorkers who are undocumented, I say: New York City is your home, too,” de Blasio said, “And we will not force any of our residents to live their lives in the shadows.”

When a similar program was introduced in San Francisco in 2009, undocumented immigrants lined up by the hundreds to get ID cards, according to the Post. And in 2007, New Haven, Conn., launched the country’s first municipal ID measure and issued 15,000 cards.

The cards will allow immigrants and other undocumented city residents to open bank accounts, use libraries, cash checks, sign apartment leases -- and see hospital doctors.

But the program has come under fire from the Foundation for American Immigration Reform, which says that such cards “aid and abet illegal immigration” as well as possibly terrorism.

The group’s spokesman, Ira Mehlman, said, “New York was the target of the 9/11 terror attacks and (U.S. officials) have said the ability of the hijackers to gain access to government-issued identification was instrumental in carrying out the attacks.”

Javier Valdes, co-executive director of Make the Road New York, praised the mayor’s plan, although he fears that card-holders may be seen as illegal immigrants, making the cards the equivalent of “a scarlet letter.’’

He added, “This needs to be an identification that all New York City residents should strive to get.”

Steve Choi, executive director of the New York City Immigration Coalition, supported the program, but was also concerned about a possible backlash to ID holders, according to CBS New York.

He said, “We have to make sure...that city agencies, such as the library and the police, are able to really accept these municipal ID cards without fear that folks are going to be branded somehow.”

But Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, is in favor of the program without reservation. “We’re tired of Congress failing us and failing our families,” she said. “And what we do in New York is we don’t wait for Congress.”


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