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City Will Offer IDs To Immigrants, Homeless, Ex-Felons Despite Criticism

By Heather Cherone | April 19, 2017 1:37pm | Updated on April 21, 2017 11:26am
 The card is designed to help those who cannot obtain an Illinois identification card or a drivers license.
The card is designed to help those who cannot obtain an Illinois identification card or a drivers license.
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CITY HALL — Chicago officials will offer municipal identification cards to the city's undocumented immigrants, homeless residents and individuals with a criminal record under a measure passed by the City Council Wednesday.

However, 9th Ward Ald. Anthony Beale said the plan was a "bad idea" that would waste taxpayer money. He voted no, along with 17th Ward Ald. David Moore, 41st Ward Ald. Anthony Napolitano and 38th Ward Ald. Nicholas Sposato.

"This is a waste of time and a waste of effort," Beale said, adding that issuing identification materials should be left to the state and federal government.

However, 47th Ward Ald. Ameya Pawar said helping to protect the city's most vulnerable residents was "exactly what the city should be doing."

City Clerk Anna Valencia and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have touted the card as a way to help those who cannot otherwise get a government-issued identification card to access city services, cultural institutions, programs and other benefits.

Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) said the city had to act since President Donald Trump's administration vows to deport people here without permission.

Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) said it was "frustrating" to listen to arguments against the municipal identification card.

"This card will be a start" for the most vulnerable Chicagoans, Lopez said.

It would be "misguided" to suggest that a municipal identification card would only benefit undocumented immigrants — especially because the growing fear among the Latino community of being deported will likely reduce the number of applicants, said 26th Ward Ald. Roberto Maldonado.

Voting for the measure is the "right, moral" thing to do, Maldonado said.

"If this is something that can restore dignity, restore pride to marginalized communities, we have an obligation to help," said 28th Ward Ald. Jason Ervin.

After the Council spent nearly two hours approving ceremonial resolutions, the debate turned emotional.

Emanuel said he wished the federal government would step forward — but noted that federal officials recently deported a young man despite his protected status as part of an Obama administration program designed to protect those who came to the United States as children.

"This is our moral responsibility," Emanuel said.

To ensure that the information provided by undocumented immigrants to city officials will not be used by federal agencies, the city will not keep applicants' addresses and phone numbers on record, nor will they keep copies of any documents, according to the measure.

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 not determined what documents applicants for the identification card will need to present beyond their names and dates of birth. Officials also have not decided whether there will be a fee for the card, but the proposal introduced Wednesday would allow one to be charged.

Applicants would be able to self-designate their gender in response to concerns from members of the transgender community, and each card would have a unique number as well as security features to prevent fraud, Valencia said.