City ID cards in the off­ing

Op­tional doc­u­ments aim to aid home­less and im­mi­grants

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Luke Broad­wa­ter

Com­ing soon to Bal­ti­more: of­fi­cial govern­ment ID cards for peo­ple who live in the city.

The City Coun­cil is mov­ing ahead with a bill that would re­quire the city to is­sue a mu­nic­i­pal iden­ti­fi­ca­tion card to any res­i­dent who asks for one.

The bill’s chief spon­sor, Coun­cil­man Bran­don Scott, said the idea is to make it eas­ier for home­less peo­ple, im­mi­grants and oth­ers who lack a driver’s li­cense to ob­tain ser­vices from the city.

It would cut down on un­nec­es­sary ar­rests, Scott said, and bol­ster a sense of civic pride. Bal­ti­more busi­nesses and cul­tural in­sti­tu­tions could of­fer dis­counts to card­hold­ers.

“It’s op­tional, but we’re go­ing to en­cour­age peo­ple to get one,” Scott said. “I hope to be the first to get one.”

Scott’s leg­is­la­tion grew out of an ef­fort he pushed last year on be­half of Bal­ti­more stu­dents. See­ing that they needed four dif­fer­ent ID cards to ac­cess schools, li­braries, recre­ation cen­ters and buses, Scott in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion to com­bine those func­tions into one card.

Nowhe’s try­ing to ex­pand the pro­gram to adults.

“Th­ese IDs will be avail­able to home­less peo­ple, to im­mi­grants and refugees, to women who are the vic­tims of do­mes­tic abuse who can’t get their doc­u­ments in or­der to get an­other ID,” Scott said.

The leg­is­la­tion hasn’t sparked much

de­bate in heav­ily Demo­cratic Bal­ti­more. It’s been praised by groups in­clud­ing the Po­lice De­part­ment and the House of Ruth, a shel­ter of women and chil­dren who have suf­fered do­mes­tic abuse.

But else­where, such pro­pos­als have been fought by those who op­pose al­low­ing im­mi­grants in the coun­try with­out le­gal doc­u­men­ta­tion, such as the Fed­er­a­tion for Amer­i­can Im­mi­gra­tion Re­form, which says such cards en­cour­age law­break­ing.

When New York City in­sti­tuted mu­nic­i­pal ID cards in 2014, the group ar­gued the cards would “draw il­le­gal aliens to New York City by mak­ing life more prac­ti­ca­ble” for them.

The new Bal­ti­more ID would have the same ef­fect, a FAIR spokesman said.

“The rea­son we have so many il­le­gal im­mi­grants liv­ing in his coun­try is be­cause we make it easy for them,” said Ira Mehlman, the spokesman. “We pro­vide all sorts of ben­e­fits for break­ing the laws.

“A num­ber of th­ese lo­cal gov­ern­ments have lost sight of the rea­son why we have im­mi­gra­tion laws.”

Scott dis­agrees. He said mak­ing life eas­ier for im­mi­grants — those who are here with or with­out le­gal doc­u­men­ta­tion — is a strength of the leg­is­la­tion. He said im­mi­grants of­ten carry cash be­cause they don’t have proper iden­ti­fi­ca­tion to open bank ac­counts, mak­ing them tar­gets for street rob­beries.

Mu­nic­i­pal ID cards are used in New York and Los An­ge­les. It’s be­lieved that the first city to is­sue mu­nic­i­pal ID cards was New Haven, Conn., fol­lowed by San Fran­cisco.

The cities have taken dif­fer­ent ap­proaches. In Oak­land, Calif., for ex­am­ple, the mu­nic­i­pal ID cards can func­tion as The munci­pal ID card pro­posed by City Coun­cil­man Bran­don Scott. debit cards. Scott said he would like to ex­plore that op­tion for Bal­ti­more be­cause young peo­ple of­ten cash their pay­checks at check-cash­ing busi­nesses that take a sig­nif­i­cant cut.

Card­hold­ers in New York re­ceive a 25 per­cent dis­count at some basketball and hockey games, and free ad­mis­sion to some mu­se­ums.

Fer­nanda Du­rand, a spokes­woman for the pro-im­mi­gra­tion group CASA, said ID cards have helped new im­mi­grants in Mont­gomery County.

“We think it will do the same in Bal­ti­more City,” she said. “Peo­ple who have no IDs are liv­ing in the shad­ows. This is a small way to help them to get out of the shad­ows. They are hard­work­ing mem­bers of the com­mu­nity who con­trib­ute to the econ­omy.”

The leg­is­la­tion calls for ap­pli­cants’ per­sonal in­for­ma­tion to be promptly de­stroyed once they re­ceive an ID.

“We are a sov­er­eign city and a safe city,” Scott said. “If some­one comes call­ing about in­for­ma­tion about our im­mi­grants, we won’t have it be­cause we’re go­ing to be de­stroy­ing it.”

Du­rand said the vic­tory of Pres­i­den­t­elect Don­ald J. Trump, who pledged dur­ing the cam­paign to de­port millions of im­mi­grants who are in the coun­try with­out le­gal doc­u­men­ta­tion, has cre­ated fear.

“We wouldn’t want the city to be an un­will­ing par­tic­i­pant in their de­por­ta­tion,” she said.

The bill has ad­vanced with unan­i­mous sup­port in the City Coun­cil. It will re­ceive a fi­nal vote Dec. 5.

City Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Bernard C. “Jack” Young backs the mea­sure, as does Mayor Stephanie Rawl­ings-Blake. Sign­ing the bill is ex­pected to be one of her last acts in of­fice.

The Bal­ti­more Po­lice De­part­ment has also en­dorsed the bill.

An­drew G. Vet­ter, the de­part­ment’s chief of staff, said of­fi­cers of­ten face an un­en­vi­able sit­u­a­tion when con­fronting lowlevel of­fenses on the streets.

If the sus­pect can show iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, the of­fi­cer is al­lowed to is­sue a ci­ta­tion in­stead of mak­ing an arrest. The of­fi­cer can’t do so if the per­son has no ID.

An arrest can make it more dif­fi­cult for that per­son to get a job, and more likely they will be ar­rested in the fu­ture, Vet­ter said.

David Rocah, se­nior staff at­tor­ney for the ACLU of Mary­land, said Scott’s leg­is­la­tion has avoided the prob­lems that other ID plans present, such as in­fring­ing on civil lib­er­ties. It cre­ates no data­base and the per­sonal in­for­ma­tion is de­stroyed, Rocah said.

“This pro­posal seems aimed at avoid­ing all of those prob­lems,” he said.

The Bal­ti­more Fi­nance De­part­ment has yet to de­ter­mine a cost of is­su­ing the cards. City of­fi­cials said they are study­ing it.

Scott said he an­tic­i­pates the ID cards would be avail­able next year.

“Peo­ple who have no IDs are liv­ing in the shad­ows.”

ALGERINA PERNA/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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