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Rahm Offers City IDs To Bring Immigrants, Homeless Out Of The 'Shadows'

By Heather Cherone | March 29, 2017 7:07am | Updated on March 29, 2017 5:06pm
 The card is designed to help those who can not obtain an Illinois identification card or a drivers license.
The card is designed to help those who can not obtain an Illinois identification card or a drivers license.
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CITY HALL — Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced a measure Wednesday that will offer Chicago's undocumented immigrants, the homeless and those with a criminal record a municipal identification card.

The card — unveiled by Emanuel and his hand-picked City Clerk Anna Valencia Wednesday — will help those who cannot otherwise get a government-issued identification card to access city services, cultural institutions, programs and other benefits, Emanuel said.

The measure is designed to allow groups now confined to the city's "shadows" to participate in the "full fabric of the city," Emanuel said.

Valencia said Wednesday her highest priority was to take steps to ensure that the information provided by undocumented immigrants to city officials would not be used by members of President Donald Trump's administration to deport people here without permission.

To eliminate that possibility, the city will not keep applicants' addresses and phone numbers on record nor will they keep copies of any documents, according to the measure, which must be approved by the full City Council. It is modeled on San Francisco's policy, Valencia said.

"The fear is real," Valencia said. "I understand the anxiety. We will ensure that we protect the most vulnerable."

With $1 million earmarked for the city ID program in this year's budget, Valencia said she expects the first card to be issued before the end of 2017.

City officials have yet to determine what documents applicants for the identification card will need to present beyond their names and dates of birth. Officials have also yet to say whether there will be a fee for the card, but the law introduced Wednesday would allow one to be charged.

Applicants will also be able to self-designate their gender in response to concerns from members of the transgender community.

"We're going to get this right," Valencia said.

Emanuel said the identification card effort was not a slap a Trump, but an effort that has been long in the works.

Also Wednesday, the City Council renewed — for a second time since Trump took office — the city’s "sanctuary city" policy designed to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation.

An estimated 183,000 Chicago residents are undocumented, data shows.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions vowed again this week to punish cities that protect undocumented immigrants from deportation by yanking their federal grants except "as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes."

Emanuel said Wednesday that the president's effort was likely to be successfully challenged in court.

"We will stay a welcoming city," Emanuel said. "We won't turn our backs on our values and principals."

Chicago's status as a sanctuary city dates to 1985, when Mayor Harold Washington prohibited city agencies from asking people about their immigration status, though the Chicago Police Department runs background checks on criminal suspects.

Trump made immigration a central issue of the presidential campaign. He has vowed to build a wall between the United States and Mexico, to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants and to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

There are nearly three dozen sanctuary cities in the United States, including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and all of the nation's biggest cities.