By Juan Soto
Thousands of Queens residents will be eligible to normalize their immigration status under the new programs announced by President Barack Obama.
Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Nicha Agarwal estimated that in the city, the number of New Yorkers who will be able to come out of the shadows and become documented immigrants is between 114,000 and 121,000.
“I think the reality is you’ve got some specific opportunities for families right now to take steps towards normalizing their status,” said Mayor de Blasio on Monday during an immigration summit he hosted at Gracie Mansion with about 20 other mayors.
De Blasio recommended undocumented New Yorkers “take advantage of this opportunity” to legalize their status.
The mayor’s policies, including the new municipal identification program and the move to limit cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement known as ICE, are geared towards helping New Yorkers who do not have a legal immigration status.
He promised to support Obama’s immigration reforms in Washington with other U.S. mayors.
“We are going to have mayor’s lobby day on Capitol Hill in February,” he said at the summit. “There is going to be a series of actions to build support for bigger reform.”
Among the mayors who participated in the summit were Javier González of Santa Fe, Kasim Reed of Atlanta; and Marilyn Strickland of Tacoma, Wash.
During the event, the mayor focused on how to coordinate efforts to implement Obama’s executive order on immigration, action that will include the creation of a mayoral war room for federal action and safeguarding immigrants from fraudulent services.
“As the son of immigrants, this issue is personal to me,” said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee.
Less than six months after signing into law the municipal identification card program, de Blasio announced the issuing of the free IDs will start in January. The city will soon release a list of the centers where New Yorkers without legal immigration status can get an identification that would allow them to open bank accounts, cash checks, get a library card or sign a lease.
Named IDNYC, de Blasio said the system has implemented “strong measures” to ensure the applicant’s privacy, prevent fraud and identity theft.
“A great deal of analysis and care went into ensuring our IDNYC card is strong on privacy and security, while providing access to as many people as possible,” the mayor said. “We want New Yorkers to feel proud to carry this card in their wallet, but also to feel confident knowing that their information is safe and secure.”
The main goal of the program is to provide city services for approximately 500,000 undocumented immigrants living throughout the five boroughs. Agarwal said that after receiving feedback from advocates focus groups and immigrants, the IDNYC card “reflects the needs and concerns of our communities.
The card will expire after five years. The minimum age to apply for the card will be 14, de Blasio said.
To apply for the cards, New Yorkers will be required to present proof of identity and residency. The de Blasio administration pointed out that there are more than 40 categories of documents that may be used to establish identity, including foreign passports and consular identification cards, foreign birth certificates, military identification and U.S. high school diplomas.
Residency can be proven by cable, phone or utility bills, bank statements and residential leases.
Steve Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, applauded the de Blasio administration “for creating a safe, secure, and accessible” municipal identification program.”
The full list of enrollment center locations will be announced in advance of next’s month launch.
“I commend the mayor and his staff for listening to our concerns, taking them to heart and ensuring that New Yorkers get the best quality service and protections as they go through the process,” Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, said.
The municipal card also comes with a big surprise. At least 33 cultural institutions in the city, both public and private, will offer discounts and memberships to cardholders.
In Queens, Flushing Town Hall, Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning, Museum of the Moving Image, New York Hall of Science, MoMA PS1, Queens Botanical Garden, Queens Museum and Queens Theatre will offer one-year free membership packages for the municipal cardholders.
Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 260–4564.