New York to Issue ID Cards for Undocumented Immigrants

Article author: 
Henry Goldman
Article publisher: 
Article date: 
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Article category: 
National Issues
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New York City’s 500,000 undocumented immigrants will be able to open bank accounts, visit libraries and use medical clinics, thanks to an official municipal identification card approved by the City Council.

The measure, backed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, passed in a 43 to 3 vote today with two abstentions. The photo IDs will display the holder’s name, birth date, address and -- at the cardholder’s option -- a self-designated gender.

“It sends a simple and clear message that we are a city that believes in including everyone,” Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said before the vote. “We don’t accept that some people can be left out because of their immigration status, how they identify their gender or whether they may be homeless.”

In a city where 40 percent of residents were born outside the U.S., politicians may gain support backing legislation that would help undocumented newcomers lease an apartment or apply for school or city services. Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 6 to 1 , and as much as 20 percent of party voters are Latino, said Jerry Skurnik, a New York-based demographic-political consultant.

“Hispanics who are citizens and voters are pro-immigration; they want their families, friends and countrymen to come here,” Skurnik said in an interview. “And in a liberal city like New York, most people are pro-immigration anyway.”

New Haven

Similar cards have been created in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New Haven, Connecticut, which began its program in 2007 in response to a series of street robberies of undocumented immigrants who carried cash because they lacked access to banks. The victims’ status made them reluctant to report the crimes, said Officer David Hartman, a New Haven police spokesman.

New York’s program would be the largest in the U.S., costing $8.4 million when it goes into effect next year, decreasing to $5.6 million annually over the next three years, Mark-Viverito said. The city will seek sponsors to offer discounts and other inducements for residents to carry the card so that its use would expand beyond undocumented immigrants, Mark-Viverito said. Details of how the card would be administered are still being worked out, she said.

“If you can’t sign a lease, if you can’t get a bank account, if you can’t do the basics, if you can’t even prove who you are, it doesn’t feel like you truly belong,” de Blasio, a 53-year-old Democrat, said in April, in support of the card.“These half-million New Yorkers are building this city alongside all of us every single day, and we will do better by them.”

Foreign Passport

Documents that would be acceptable to apply for a card include a U.S. or foreign passport, a domestic or foreign driver’s license and a birth certificate or proof of foreign military service. An applicant would also have to show proof of city residence, such as a utility bill or bank statement.

Aside from immigrants, those supporting New York’s bill include transgendered individuals who want the right to identify themselves as they see fit, regardless of what their birth certificate or driver’s license may say.

Democratic Council members Mark Treyger and Alan Maisel ofBrooklyn were among several who raised concerns that the program could create a list of undocumented immigrants who could be targeted for deportation.

To contact the reporter on this story: Henry Goldman in New York at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Mark Schoifet at mschoifet@bloomberg.netStephen Merelman, Pete Young