NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday signed into law a plan to offer a municipal identification card to residents regardless of their immigration status.
The card, dubbed the New York City Identity Card, will be available to anyone who can prove their identity and residency in the city. It is particularly aimed at groups that are currently unable to show a form of government identification required to do things such as cashing a check, signing a lease or even entering office buildings for job interviews or public schools for parent-teacher conferences.
As WCBS 880’s Monica Miller reported, the cards will be available starting in 2015. The cards are aimed largely at helping the estimated 500,000 immigrants living illegally in the city, and champions of the cards said they will also be of help to the elderly, the homeless and transgender people.
“We want all of our people to have as good a life and as easy a life and as a productive a life as they can,” de Blasio said as he signed the bill Thursday.
The city is negotiating with banks to let the card be an acceptable form of identification to open accounts.
De Blasio promised that card applicants’ personal information will be kept as safe as possible.
“The information necessary to provide the ID cards will not be shared with any other government agency or third party,” he said.
The exceptions will be a police subpoena, or if a person applies for benefits for which they have to prove eligibility.
De Blasio made the establishment of the ID card a central campaign promise. With its passage, the city is now creating what will be the country’s largest municipal identification card system.
As 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported, Shapriece Townsend, 22, said he cannot wait to get his city ID card when it is available in January. He said without the card, he has no valid identification and cannot sign an apartment lease.
“I was born here in Brooklyn. Spent most of my childhood going through foster care from home to home. Don’t have any access of none of my documents like birth certificate, Social Security card,” Townsend said.
De Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said New York was willing to act even as Washington appears paralyzed by the tens of thousands of migrants who have crossed the Mexican border and overwhelmed social service facilities in Texas, California and Arizona.
“From our earliest days, New York City has been a beacon of hope and optimism and today we are continuing to build that legacy,” Mark-Viverito said. The City Council approved the measure last month, putting New York on a growing list of cities that have approved ID cards, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and New Haven, Connecticut.
Some critics have expressed concerns that the cards will be used for identity thefts, or to gain access to government subsidies for people who do not qualify. But the mayor said the card will give all New Yorkers the dignity and peace of mind they deserve.
“There are so many reasons why we want people to have ID, but we have a difference in this city here to begin with. We don’t have the same usage of driver’s licenses that other parts of the country have,” de Blasio said. “Right there, before you get to any other issues, you just have a lot fewer people with what is the most typical ID.”
The New York Civil Liberties Union initially backed the card but withdrew its support over concerns that law enforcement would use the cards to gather information needed to deport immigrants who are in the country illegally. City officials downplayed that concern, saying the personal information would only be stored for two years and would only be accessible by court order.
The card will initially be free, though officials said the city could charge a small fee for it after the first year. Documents that will be acceptable to obtain a photo-embedded card include a form of identification such as a foreign driver’s license or a birth certificate and proof of residence, such as a utility bill or bank statement.
The card will also offer yet-to-be-determined incentives to encourage all people, immigrants or otherwise, to obtain them. Advocates say they believe benefits, such as perhaps restaurant or museum discounts, will popularize the ID card and prevent a stigma from emerging around it.
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