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New Municipal ID Card Would Benefit Undocumented, Homeless, Proponents Say

By Ted Cox | October 12, 2016 2:23pm
 Mayor Rahm Emanuel says
Mayor Rahm Emanuel says "an individual’s background should never be a barrier to participating" in the life of Chicago.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CITY HALL — Building on Chicago's status as a Welcoming City, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Wednesday he's moving ahead with the creation of a municipal identification card.

Emanuel and City Clerk Susana Mendoza said they'd begin the first phase of creating such a card, expected to benefit undocumented immigrants, the homeless, ex-cons, young adults, the elderly and others who sometimes face difficulty in obtaining a government ID.

"Chicago is and has been a city that welcomes everyone, and an individual’s background should never be a barrier to participating in the economic, social or cultural life of Chicago," Emanuel said in a statement. "With this program, we ensure that all Chicago residents have the identification they need to access vital services."

 City Clerk Susana Mendoza, seen with Ald. Ariel Reboyras, says the municipal IDs should be ready to be issued late next year.
City Clerk Susana Mendoza, seen with Ald. Ariel Reboyras, says the municipal IDs should be ready to be issued late next year.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

"We want to provide access to the resources and economic and educational opportunities that are fundamental to life in our great city," Mendoza added. "By putting this pass in the hands of people across all ages and demographics, we're opening doors that may be otherwise closed. We're honored Mayor Emanuel has partnered with us on this initiative and we're going to run with it in 2017."

The card is expected to be ready by the end of next year, and Emanuel said he provided the effort with $1 million in funding in the 2017 budget proposal he submitted to the City Council this week.

The first step, Emanuel and Mendoza said, was to determine what the card could be used for. They'd function as IDs with proof of residency, of course, but also could be integrated to function as Chicago Public Library cards, to provide discounts at entertainment venues, cultural institutions and other businesses buying in as city partners, and to provide streamlined access for medical or financial services.

"A Chicago municipal ID will be an asset to all Chicagoans and has the potential to link our libraries, cultural institutions and city services under a unified platform,” said Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th). "The municipal ID will also provide our undocumented and homeless neighbors with the needed identification to access critical city services and cultural resources."

Ald. Danny Solis (25th) called it "a step in the right direction to equipping residents with the resources necessary to lead productive lives,” adding,  “All residents of Chicago, regardless of their immigration status, will feel safe and secure and give residents access to services they need to contribute to our great city."

A working group formed by the mayor last year endorsed the creation of the municipal ID. Earlier this month, the City Council strengthened protections for undocumented immigrants as a Welcoming City, including making it a crime for police officers or other city officials to threaten them with exposure to federal authorities.

"We have a fundamental belief that all human beings have a greater value than the documentation that they carry,” said Sol Flores, executive director of La Casa Norte and a member of that working group. “Chicago's proposed municipal ID program takes a first step at contributing to the belonging and dignity for those Chicagoans who may need it the most."

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