Earlier this week, new mayor Bill de Blasio’s State of the City address set some pretty ambitious policy goals: he promised to set a new minimum wage in the city, presumably higher than New York state’s, talked a lot about social inequality, and, most attention-gettingly, he promised to make municipal identification cards available to everyone , even undocumented immigrants.
“To all of my fellow New Yorkers who are undocumented, I say: New York City is your home, too,” de Blasio said, announcing the plan, “and we will not force any of our residents to live their lives in the shadows.”
It remains to be seen if or when de Blasio will actually implement the municipal ID plan, which would make it possible for undocumented people to do things like rent apartments and get library cards. We were surprised, though, to see that no political trolls immediately leapt out of the woodwork to criticize the plan, perhaps by making some hyperventilating, grandiose statement about terrorism and generous use of the word “illegals.”
But now, after two long days, our wait is over. May we introduce State Senator Greg Ball?
Ball represents the state’s 40th District, a swath that touches Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess Counties; he also chairs the State Senate’s Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs Committee. Going hard on illegal immigration helped him make it into the both the state assembly and then the state senate; the New York Times described his assembly campaign as “virulently anti-immigrant” . During his senate run, he put out a video declaring, “Illegal immigration is illegal.”
So it’s perhaps not surprising that he’s jumped on de Blasio’s plan, although Ball does not, in any sense of the word, represent New York City. In a press release issued Wednesday (one of seven he put out that day), Ball called the ID plan “hair-brained” [sic] and pronounced de Blasio “crazed.”
“Now a decade plus after 9-11, New York’s extremist Mayor is laying out a hair brained scheme that can simply be dubbed the ‘de Blasio Terrorist Empowerment Act’,” Ball declared. “My concern is not about the illegal alien dish washer looking to get to work, this extreme Mayor’s proposal, joined by efforts in the New York State Senate to provide New York State driver’s licenses to illegals, will simply provide a mask to those seeking to harm the United States.”
Illegal immigrants “harming the United States” by getting library cards and opening bank accounts does keep us up at night, barring the windows in fear. Great point.
Make the Road New York is a community organization that advocates for immigrants and workers in low-income neighborhoods, and they’ve been leading the call for municipal IDs for all New Yorkers. Lead organizer Daniel Coates tells the Voice that the IDs are not, in fact, part of some foul terrorist plot.
“They would be a valid form of identification that would be accepted by all municipal government agencies,” he explains. “For Make the Road New York’s members, one of the fundamental problems that would solve is having a valid piece of identification you know the NYPD will accept. So, getting over the fear of not having a valid form of ID if you think a cop is going to stop you, or not approaching a police officer, in the case of having something to report, because of a lack of valid ID.”
“I’d like the senator to get to know the hundreds of thousands of undocumented members of our community,” Coates adds, “and understand the wide variety of people who are going to benefit from municipal ID, and the variety of contributions that they already make to the city. The municipal ID is going to be something that encourages their participation and strengthens things like public safety, because it’s building trust.”
Public Advocate Tish James also responded to Ball’s comments, issuing a statement that called them “incendiary” and “fear-mongering.”
“Instead of passing the New York State Dream Act, Senator Greg Ball is scapegoating immigrants and blatantly fear-mongering,” James wrote. “Municipal identification cards for all New Yorkers are a great tool to help bring undocumented immigrants out of the shadows and give them access to crucial services. New Yorkers deserve leaders who will unite and not divide communities, and build a city and state that works for all.”
Ball has vowed to hold a Homeland Security Hearing on Friday, February 28 that will focus entirely on de Blasio’s municipal ID plan, because why let a perfectly good publicity opportunity slip away?
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