Church to give im­mi­grants ID cards

Arch­dio­cese of Bal­ti­more aims to smooth way for mem­bers with­out pa­pers

The Washington Post - - METRO - BY JULIE ZAUZMER

The Arch­dio­cese of Bal­ti­more will cre­ate its own form of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion card for mem­bers of churches, an al­ter­na­tive to gov­ern­ment-is­sued iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, that church lead­ers hope will make im­mi­grants and oth­ers who have trou­ble ob­tain­ing iden­ti­fi­ca­tion feel safer in the city.

The mayor of Bal­ti­more has en­dorsed the plan, and Bal­ti­more’s po­lice force said it will rec­og­nize the new “par­ish ID” as a valid form of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion.

“No one in our city should live in fear,” Mayor Cather­ine E. Pugh (D) said at a news con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day at which she an­nounced the new form of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion along­side Arch­bishop of Bal­ti­more Wil­liam Lori. “The par­ish ID sup­ports our ef­fort to build what I con­sider to be an in­clu­sive city that takes into ac­count the some­times in­sur­mount­able ob­sta­cles to es­tab­lish of­fi­cial res­i­dency iden­ti­fi­ca­tion due to, as has been pointed out, un­sta­ble hous­ing . . . gen­der iden­tity, im­mi­grant sta­tus or any other bar­ri­ers.”

While some ac­tivists who sup­port im­mi­grants in Bal­ti­more worked to es­tab­lish the ID and cel­e­brated its cre­ation, oth­ers said the ID has only lim­ited ef­fi­cacy com­pared with far­ther-reach­ing gov­ern­ment ef­forts.

The pri­mary pur­pose of the ID card that the mayor and the arch­bishop cited Wed­nes­day is mak­ing res­i­dents of the city feel safe con­tact­ing the po­lice, if they find them­selves as vic­tims of or wit­nesses to crime. Bal­ti­more has al­ready taken steps to en­sure that res­i­dents do not need photo IDs at all to ob­tain most city ser­vices, and the city and the church do not know whether pri­vate in­sti­tu­tions such as banks will ac­cept the par­ish ID.

“This city-sanc­tioned, church-ap­proved [iden­ti­fi­ca­tion] is one step to­ward help­ing many who feel marginal­ized find a mea­sure of peace of mind here in Bal­ti­more where they live,” said the Rev. Bruce Le­wandowski, who worked with the ac­tivist group Build to cre­ate the ID. “The el­der---

im­mi­grants, so many young black men in our com­mu­nity, those who are vul­ner­a­ble, who do not have ID are tar­geted by peo­ple who know that they won’t call the po­lice. And to­day we’re chang­ing that.”

Lori echoed him. “This ID pro­vides one av­enue to free­dom from fear,” he said. “The ID makes it harder for res­i­dents of some of the most vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties to be tar­geted as vic­tims of crime, as­sault and vi­o­lence. It sadly hap­pens all too of­ten.”

Al­though Build mem­bers said the par­ish ID is not in­tended to be a sub­sti­tute for a gov­ern­men­tis­sued ID, Liz Alex, di­rec­tor of or­ga­niz­ing at the im­mi­grant aid group Casa de Mary­land, said the lat­ter would be far more valu­able to un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants.

Im­mi­grants can al­ready ac­cess non­govern­men­tal IDs, she said; Casa it­self gives out a “mem­ber­ship card” that some im­mi­grants use for the same pur­pose. But Build vol­un­teers said the par­ish ID would be the first non­govern­men­tal ID that Bal­ti­more po­lice will rec­og­nize.

Alex wor­ried that some po­ten­tial ben­e­fi­cia­ries would fear sign­ing up for a non­govern­men­tal ID out of con­cern that agents of Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment (ICE) would some­how turn to the pool of peo­ple reg­is­tered for par­ish IDs as tar­gets for de­por­ta­tion. Build lead­ers said they have been re­as­sured by a sim­i­lar par­ish ID pro­gram in Dal­las, which they say has not put ID hold­ers at risk of de­por­ta­tion.

In nu­mer­ous cities, from New York to San Fran­cisco, city gov­ern­ments is­sue IDs di­rectly to res­i­dents who might not be able to ob­tain driver’s li­censes. Bal­ti­more has passed a bill that would al­low it to do the same but has yet to roll out the ID cards; Mary- land does al­ready al­low un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants to ob­tain driver’s li­censes un­der state law.

“Re­ally, what we need is the mu­nic­i­pal ID card,” Alex said. “I just hope our mayor and our coun­cil mem­bers don’t ac­cept this as a sub­sti­tute for what we re­ally need and what we’ve al­ready passed.”

Many schools re­quire gov­ern­ment-is­sued ID for par­ents to en­ter their build­ings, Alex said, and banks re­quire gov­ern­men­tis­sued ID to open an ac­count. The cre­ators of the par­ish ID say theirs should be paired with a mu­nic­i­pal ID some­day.

Alex said she thinks the par­ish ID might cut down on er­ro­neous ar­rests, when a per­son is ap­pre­hended for re­sem­bling a sus­pect and can’t ver­ify his iden­tity, but won’t nec­es­sar­ily in­crease con­fi­dence in the po­lice.

“It’s more about what [po­lice] do and less about the card,” she said. “Be­cause word gets around. As soon as you have one per­son have a suc­cess­ful in­ter­ac­tion with a po­lice of­fi­cer, that’s the best ad­ver­tis­ing ever.”

Bal­ti­more, like many U.S. cities, has a long-stand­ing cus­tom of gen­er­ally stay­ing out of im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment, and Bal­ti­more po­lice gen­er­ally avoid inly, quir­ing about sus­pects’ or wit­nesses’ im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus.

The par­ish ID would be clearly marked as “not a gov­ern­ment-is­sued ID card,” Le­wandowski said. The card would have the name and address of the par­ish church that is­sued it to the parish­ioner, along with the card­holder’s pho­to­graph and a church-is­sued ID num­ber.

The Bal­ti­more Sun re­ported that to qual­ify, a card­holder must have been a mem­ber of a par­ish for at least three months and pro­vide other iden­ti­fy­ing doc­u­men­ta­tion as well as a wit­ness who can vouch for his or her iden­tity.

The re­quire­ment for church mem­ber­ship lim­its the card to Catholics. While Pugh cited gen­der iden­tity as one rea­son that some peo­ple have trou­ble get­ting IDs, Mon­ica Stevens, the out­reach co­or­di­na­tor at the Bal­ti­more Trans­gen­der Al­liance, said that she isn’t sure many trans­gen­der peo­ple in Bal­ti­more will turn to the church for this ser­vice.

Other lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions of­fer free le­gal aid for trans­gen­der peo­ple seek­ing IDs that match their gen­der iden­tity, she said, and many trans­gen­der peo­ple aren’t com­fort­able in a church that teaches that the gen­der a per­son is as­signed at birth should be im­mutable.

“I per­son­ally, if I had to join a church to get my name changed, then I prob­a­bly wouldn’t have my name changed to­day,” Stevens said.

But Pugh said the ef­fort to train po­lice and other city em­ploy­ees to rec­og­nize the par­ish ID will be worth­while if the new cards are valu­able to even a small num­ber of Bal­ti­more res­i­dents. “If this iden­ti­fi­ca­tion helps one per­son pick up the phone and call the po­lice, it has done what it’s sup­posed to do,” she said, to ap­plause.

“As soon as you have one per­son have a suc­cess­ful in­ter­ac­tion with a po­lice of­fi­cer, that’s the best ad­ver­tis­ing ever.” Liz Alex, of the group Casa de Mary­land, on one ben­e­fit of ID cards the Arch­dio­cese of Bal­ti­more will is­sue to un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants

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