Undocumented Big Apple residents can now get an official city ID card.
The city launched Monday IDNYC, a program that allows hundreds of thousands of residents a chance to apply for legal identification card that can be used just like a driver's license at various government offices and businesses that require a photo ID.
A crowd of mostly immigrant applicants lined up Monday outside the Flushing Library, one of 17 IDNYC enrollment centers, in the rain to be the first to get the card. At a news conference there, Mayor Bill de Blasio said without the ID card, undocumented residents don't have the neccesary access to bank accounts, hospital care and jobs.
"We are adamant that people cannot and should not live in the shadows. We don't want any of our fellow New Yorkers to feel like second-class citizens," said the mayor, who made the IDs a priority when he assumed office last year.
Interested applicants, who must be at least 14 years old, will be asked to provide documents confirming their identity, such as a passport, birth certificate or visa, and a document that confirms their residency, such as a utility bill.
The documents will be scaled on a point system that can be viewed online in an interactive calculator at nyc.gov/idnyc along with a PDF of the application in 25 languages. Once approved, the applicant will receive the card in the mail in 10 to 15 business days and it will be valid for five years.
De Blasio said all New Yorkers, even those who already have a valid ID, should get the card because of the fun extra benefits. The card will also provide applicants one-year memberships to 33 cultural institutions such as the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and MoMA PS1. Card users can also get discounts on prescription drugs through the BigAppleRx program, Broadway shows and other services.
Although the City Council passed the law that created the cards in June by a 43-3 vote, the NYCLU expressed concern over the program. The group said they worry that the information could be used by law enforcement to detain or deport undocumented immigrants.
"While the NYC ID will bring benefits to many people, we are disappointed that the city is inviting New Yorkers to gamble with the stakes as high as prosecution or even deportation," the NYCLU said in a statement last year.
Nisha Agarwal, the city's commissioner for immigrant affairs, quashed those concerns noting that the city will not ask about immigration statuses and the data will be secure.
"It's important to remind everyone that when the law passed, there was language in it that said both that information would not be shared unless legally required -- and that's a very high standard," she said.
The NYPD said it has trained its officers about the rules of the municipal card and they will recognize it as an official form of identification if someone presents the card to an officer.
The three Republican council members who voted against the bill said in the past that they were concerned that the card users were getting access to services that are ineligible to noncitizens. Councilman Vincent Ignizio, (R-Staten Island) who wasn't available for comment Monday, told reporters in the the spring he too had questions about the program's vetting process.
De Blasio said that the applicants want to contribute to the city in a positive way and want to be counted among the New York populace.
Esther Sánchez, a 42-year-old Mexican immigrant from Queens, who received a card Monday, agreed. The mother of three has been in the city for 18 years and said she struggled when her passport wasn't accepted at hospitals or by the security at her children's public school.
"This is a very important day for me," she said in Spanish at the news conference. "Now I feel like I finally exist in New York City."