By Juan Soto
New York City is one step closer to creating the largest municipal identification program in the country.
Last week, the City Council approved 43-3 with two abstentions a bill that allows New Yorkers to have a municipal ID regardless of their citizen status.
One of the primary goals of the New York City Identity Card is to provide city services for approximately 500,000 undocumented immigrants living throughout the five boroughs.
Senior citizens and displaced youth will also benefit from the program because sometimes they cannot provide identification to obtain public services they need.
The Council expects to begin issuing the municipal identifications at the start of 2015. The de Blasio administration is still working out the details of the program.
With these IDs, New Yorkers without legal immigration status will be able to open bank accounts, cash checks, get a library card or sign a lease. The identification will include a photo of the cardholder, name, date of birth, address and expiration date.
To apply for a card, the New Yorker will have to provide proof of residency, such as a utility bill.
“Every New Yorker deserves equal access to the services and benefits our city has to offer,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan). “This legislation will level the playing field and expand access to greater opportunities to anyone who calls New York City home.”
Cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco have already implemented municipal identification programs.
“For many undocumented immigrants, having no ID means living in the shadows,” state Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) said. “For our undocumented neighbors, living life without an identification card creates enormous barriers to accomplishing mundane tasks, like opening a bank account.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to sign the legislation into law. He promised to create a municipal identification program during last year’s mayoral campaign.
De Blasio set aside $8 million for the initiative as part of the city’s $75 billion annual budget. The city budget was approved last week.
“This will be the largest and most successful program of its kind,” said Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D-Brooklyn), chairman of the Committee on Immigration. New Yorkers will be “benefitting as they access programs, services and cultural institutions.”
Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4564.