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Know Your Rights
Source: New York Post
Subject: Immigration
Type: Media Coverage

City on verge of issuing largest municipal ID program in nation

New York is poised to create the largest municipal ID program in the country, making city identification cards available to any resident, regardless of immigration status.

Advocates of the bill to be introduced in the City Council on Thursday say it removes road blocks for residents who can’t obtain traditional IDs — such as the homeless and immigrants — and makes it easier for transgendered residents to get IDs that reflect their chosen gender.

The cards would become available six months after the proposed bill is signed into law, and the mayor has said that he wants to have them ready within a year.

“Without IDs, we are a nonentity in New York City,” said homeless advocate Dennis Rogers, an immigrant who obtained legal resident’s status, but lost his identification when he became homeless. “I’m here legally, but it’s difficult for me to prove it. There are thousands of people like myself.”

Homeless residents can get a city card if they prove 15 days of residency in a shelter, health clinic, hospital or social services agency.

“It’s just the beginning,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who hails from Puerto Rico. “It’s just an example that there are things that municipalities like New York can do to be again supportive of immigrants that we know contribute and are vital to the economic vitalization and reality of our city.”

The cards would be aimed at undocumented immigrants who don’t have access to bank accounts, library cards, or even memberships at places like Costco because they can’t produce official photo ID. They could also be used to secure apartment leases and MTA senior passes, but they couldn’t be used for government benefits not otherwise available.

The cards will display the cardholder’s photo, name, date of birth, address, and an expiration date. It will also have the cardholder’s “self-designated gender” — a big win for the LGBT community. By comparison, to change one’s gender on a driver’s license, people have to bring a doctor’s note that certifies one gender is the person’s “main” gender.

Not everyone is ready to back the bill. GOP Councilman Vincent Ignizio said that hearings on them will be crucial.

“I’m concerned about back-door municipal voting and security concerns,” Ignizio said.

Bill sponsors expect changes.

“We’re really anticipating this as the start of a conversation,” said Brooklyn Councilman Carlos Menchaca, a co-sponsor and the council’s first Mexican-American member. “We just introduced it, we’re going to go in to hearings and figure out how we can better the bill.”

Additional reporting by Kevin Fasick and Yoav Gonen

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