NYC Council approves ID program for immigrants who entered illegally, others
The City Council Thursday approved a New York City-issued ID card program, paving the way for immigrants who entered illegally, homeless residents and others to obtain a legal form of identification.
The municipal IDs will feature security measures resembling those used by the Department of Motor Vehicles to prevent fraud, though the standards for qualification will be "flexible" enough to encompass New Yorkers excluded from state-issued ID programs, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said. She acknowledged that many details must still be hashed out.
The program, to cost $8.4 million next fiscal year and $5.6 million each subsequent year, will be the largest of its kind in the nation, she said. Applicants can choose a self-designated gender, a feature that has won praise from the transgender community.
"It is sound policy, and it is humane policy," Mark-Viverito said at a City Hall news conference. "This program can give a helping hand to those who have never had one before."
While the city waits for Congress to act immigration reform -- a process that has been stalled -- "we can take steps to help our own right here," she said.
The council passed the municipal ID bill 43-3 with two members abstaining.
There are an estimated 500,000 undocumented immigrants in New York City. Other municipalities that have established similar programs include Los Angeles, San Francisco and New Haven, Connecticut.
Police Commissioner William Bratton and other NYPD officials have expressed reservations about how the program -- to be administered by the Mayor Bill de Blasio's Office of Operations -- will be secure enough to limit fraud and misuse, though the department supports the general concept.
Councilman Vincent Ignizio of Staten Island, one of three Republicans on the 51-member council, voted against the measure, saying its sponsors failed to address "many holes in regard to legitimate security concerns."
He said the responsibility of working out the security details should not be shifted from the council to the de Blasio administration.
Councilman Mark Treyger (D-Manhattan) abstained from voting, saying a future administration in Washington -- less friendly to immigrants than President Barack Obama -- could use the program to single out and persecute immigrants in the city who are undocumented under federal law..
Other council members who voted in favor of the IDs still worried about whether the cards will stigmatize immigrants without documents and, like the NYPD and Ignizio, sought more assurance on security.
Mark-Viverito said the card will be scrutinized by police officers and other authorities to the same degree as any identifying documentation. It cannot be used to apply for benefits or programs overseen by the state or federal governments.
"If any agency for any reason has a doubt as to the identity of the person presenting that card, they have the right to reject it," Mark-Viverito said.
The IDs will include, at a minimum, the carrier's photograph, name, date of birth and address and an expiration date. Foreign passports, consular IDs, birth certificates, utility bills, local property tax statements and other credentials could be used to apply. The card has not yet been designed.
Mark-Viverito said officials are reaching out to banks to encourage them to accept the IDs and permit their carriers to open accounts. Officials are also in talks with cultural, social and recreational institutions -- from museums to libraries to the CitiBike bicycle-share program -- to establish "incentives" for citizens and legal residents to also apply.
Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Queens), a co-lead sponsor of the bill to create the IDs, said he hopes the card will become a "must-have accessory for all New Yorkers."
Asked whether officials have reached out to other municipalities, including those in Long Island, about accepting the New York City ID, Mark-Viverito said the program is intended to benefit city residents within city borders.
Officials said they hope New Yorkers can begin applying for the IDs -- at offices in all five boroughs -- by the end of this year or the start of 2015.
De Blasio has been openly supportive of city-issued IDs, first advocating for them in his State of the City address in February.