While having a form of identification is taken for granted by many New Yorkers, a half-million residents with complicated immigration issues have lived and struggled without any form of identification for years. Without any governmental issued form of ID, it is incredibly difficult for an individual to complete even the simplest of tasks that we citizens don’t even think twice about, such as renting out a book from the local library, let alone apply for a driver’s license. Even opening a bank account has been virtually impossible for such undocumented residents, making them vulnerable to theft and robbery due to the large amounts of cash they are forced to carry around or store in their apartments. This, in turn, potentially exacerbates the undocumented alien’s inability to qualify for certain forms of relief, such as a marriage based adjustment of status, where the alien and his/her spouse may be expected to furnish joint documents as evidence of the bona fides of the marriage; a 245i adjustment of status case, where the alien must prove physical presence on December 21, 2000; cancellation of removal for non-permanent residents, where the Respondent must demonstrate ten years physical presence; or even Deferred Acton for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) where the applicant must demonstrate physical presence in the US.
There may be some hope on the horizon though. Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City recently signed a bill on July 10th, 2014 authorizing a municipal identification card system – a program modeled after 11 other city ID programs launched nationwide, including those in New Haven, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland. While the question of relief for undocumented immigrants remains a polarizing, contentious issue, Mayor de Blasio refers to the program as a step in the direction of progress and the epitome of the type of policies immigration reform should implement.
While the details will be ironed out over the next several months, the municipal ID seeks to benefits not only undocumented immigrants but the larger community. The ID will make various city services more accessible to and serve as a primary, reliable form of identification for not just illegal immigrants, but also the city’s transgender, foster youths, and homeless populations as well.
The municipal ID would meet all federal rules and criteria, require a list of valid, unexpired documents to apply, and will be provided with a unique number to ensure authenticity and prevent misuse and identity fraud. Applicants will be required to furnish documents such as utility bills, tax ID numbers, passport numbers, and photo ID such as a foreign passport. The card will be free, at least in the first year of the program’s launch. Once a resident has a municipal ID, they can reap the many benefits the program has to offer. With features such as a photo and address, card-holders will presumably have access to pre-paid debit cards and transportation services; be able to open bank accounts; enroll their children in schools; lease an apartment; and be able to report crimes without fear of being turned away due to lack of identity. From an immigration perspective, affected individuals will hopefully be able to establish a paper trail of their lives here, which can potentially go a long way in terms of establishing physical presence or proof of “equities” in a discretionary situation where the individual is trying to demonstrate that he or she is firmly settled in the United States. In other words, one little document could make a tremendous impact in the lives of thousands.
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