NEW YORK — Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday signed into law a plan to offer identification cards to residents regardless of their immigration statuses, providing a valuable document to access certain services for those who struggled to get them.
De Blasio, a Democrat, made the establishment of the ID card a central campaign. With its passage, New York City is now creating what will be the country's largest municipal identification card system.
"We cannot accept a city where some of our residents are forced to live fearfully in the shadows," de Blasio said at a bill-signing ceremony in Brooklyn. He said the new card would finally provide a sense of "inclusion" for many who live in the city.
The card, dubbed the New York City Identity Card, will be available to anyone who can prove their identity and residency in the nation's largest city. It is particularly aimed at groups that are currently unable to show a form of government identification required to do things such as cashing a check, signing a lease or even entering office buildings for job interviews or public schools for parent-teacher conferences. The city is negotiating with banks to let the card be an acceptable form of identification to open accounts.
Champions of the card say it will be of help to the elderly, the homeless and transgender people, though the estimated 500,000 immigrants who live in the city illegally are poised to be the biggest beneficiaries. De Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said that New York was willing to act even as Washington appears paralyzed by the tens of thousands of migrants who have crossed the Mexican border and overwhelmed social service facilities in Texas, California and Arizona.
"From our earliest days, New York City has been a beacon of hope and optimism and today we are continuing to build that legacy," said Mark-Viverito, a Democrat. The City Council approved the measure last month, putting New York on a growing list of cities that have approved ID cards, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and New Haven, Connecticut.
The card is expected to become available in January.
The New York Civil Liberties Union initially backed the card but withdrew its support over concerns that law enforcement would use the cards to gather information needed to deport immigrants who are in the country illegally. City officials downplayed that concern, saying the personal information would only be stored for two years and would only be accessible by court order.
The card will initially be free, though officials said the city could charge a small fee for it after the first year. Documents that will be acceptable to obtain a photo-embedded card include a form of identification such as a foreign driver's license or a birth certificate and proof of residence, such as a utility bill or bank statement.
The card will also offer yet-to-be-determined incentives to encourage all people, immigrants or otherwise, to obtain them. Advocates say they believe benefits, such as perhaps restaurant or museum discounts, will popularize the ID card and prevent a stigma from emerging around it.