Council vote clears the way for immigrant access to city services
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Councilman Carlos Menchaca, a driving force behind the City Council’s historic June 26 vote to establish a municipal identification card program to help undocumented immigrants obtain city services, predicted that the program would become the most successful of its kind in the nation.
“This will be the largest and most successful program of its kind, benefitting all New Yorkers as they access programs, services and cultural institutions. As a result of this bill, identification will no longer be a privilege for New Yorkers,” Menchaca said, calling the vote, “a momentous step for the many communities that have historically felt disconnected from the city they call home.”
On Thursday, the council voted said 43-3 to set up the ambitious new program.
The legislation, sponsored by Menchaca (D-Sunset Park-Red Hook) and Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), with the full support of Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, requires the city to offer a municipal identification card to any established resident living within the five boroughs.
Under the program, city agencies would be required to accept the card where identification is requisite to provide access to city services. The card will include the cardholder’s photo, name, date of birth, address and an expiration date. Applicants will be able to elect to include his or her self-designated gender.
To obtain a municipal identification card, individuals will be required to demonstrate both their identity (using foreign birth certificate, for example) and their residency in New York City. A utility bill or a paycheck could be used as proof of residency.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Mayor Bill de Blasio supports the program and has set aside money in the city’s budget for it.
For Menchaca, the first Mexican-American to serve on the City Council, Thursday’s vote was in keeping with one of the goals he established when he won the Sunset Park-Red Hook council seat in November. Shortly after his election Menchaca told the Brooklyn Eagle in an interview that he wanted to help immigrants thrive in New York City. “Immigration issues are also important to me. Immigration plays a huge role in our community. I want to give immigrants increased access to government service,” he told the Eagle.
Menchaca is the chairman of the council Immigration Committee.
The bill was introduced to help New Yorkers who do not have proper forms of identification to obtain ID, according to the legislation’s supporters, who were quick out point out that the program will not only benefit undocumented immigrants, but senior citizens, misplaced youths and others.
“Every New Yorker deserves equal access to the services and benefits our city uniquely has to offer, yet too many individuals are forced to forgo these opportunities for lack of valid identification,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “This legislation will level the playing field and expand access to greater opportunities to anyone who calls New York City home, including those who have been historically excluded from obtaining state identification or an ID that represents their self-assigned gender.”
Dromm said the new program will have many practical benefits. “Countless people, from the immigrant family in Sunset Park to the transgender youth in Jackson Heights, will now have access to identification vital to performing basic daily tasks, from accessing city buildings to opening bank accounts,” he said. “A New York City identification card accessible to all only serves to strengthen the relationship of our diverse communities to our schools, our police, and city government as a whole."