On June 26, 2014 the New York City Identification bill was passed by the City Council. The program is set up to help immigrants who are not able to obtain New York City state IDs, but the program also applies to homeless, transgender, seniors, and others who are unable or unwilling to obtain a non-driver’s license ID, the accessibility of the card coupled with the plan to make it free for its first years makes it a particularly viable option for undocumented immigrants.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his plan to create a municipal ID system in the city on Feb. 10, 2014 during his first state of the city address. The purpose of the card system is to provide services not afforded to NYC residents without a valid form of identification. These services include opening bank accounts, taking out a lease, and obtaining library cards.
Opportunities like this were not available to illegal immigrants in NYC prior to the legislation, and some are hopeful about what it means for the undocumented.
“They are doing it to help undocumented immigrants,” says Pap Drammeh, President of the Association of Senegalese in America. Though he does understand people’s concerns about the identification system he sees it as a better alternative to what is currently going on.
“Some people think they’re trying to locate undocumented immigrants, but I don’t think so.When they get stopped by the police they have nothing to show.”
But he does believe that most African immigrants do agree with the legislation.
“Most of them see it as something positive,” he said.
There is fear in the immigrant community that the municipal ID system, which collects proof of residence and identification from all applicants and stores them in a database for up to two years, will be abused by officials to locate immigrants. The city counters that the information will only be accessible by court order. Nevertheless, the New York Civil Liberties Union withdrew support, fearing that the collected information of the undocumented would be used to aid in their deportation.
NYC officials have been asking that “incentives” be offered with the card to counter the suspiciousness of the city’s immigrant population.
These incentives include a full year of free membership to thirty-three of the city’s famous cultural sites such as the Bronx Zoo, Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET), and the New York Botanical Garden. The incentives themselves are offered to encourage New Yorkers to explore several of the city’s cultural institutions for one year without having to worry about payment, encouraging a sense of appreciation for the many museums, zoos, and music halls that the city offers for people who otherwise would not be able to afford such opportunities.
The institutions themselves are hoping that the card holders will renew their subscriptions.
The decision was announced Thursday, September 18th at the Bronx Zoo by mayor de Blasio. The card will be available on January 1st, 2015.