The Ins And Outs Of Local IDs

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is announcing a plan to implement local IDs regardless of legal status. To learn how local IDs have worked in other places, Robert Siegel speaks with Patricia Sollami Covello, clerk of Mercer County, N.J. They discuss the community ID program that Mercer County began in 2010.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. New York City's new mayor, Bill de Blasio in his State of the City speech this week said this to New Yorkers who are undocumented.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO: New York City is your home, too. And we will not force any of our residents to live their lives in the shadows.

SIEGEL: And to that end, Mayor de Blasio proposed a municipal ID card. It would not be the first. IDs are either issued or will be soon issued in San Francisco, Oakland and Richmond, California. New Haven, Connecticut, has issued local IDs for several years. To get a sense of how a local ID works and for whom, we've called city administrator Naomi Kelly in San Francisco which has had its own ID card since 2009. Welcome to the program.

NAOMI KELLY: Thank you very much.

SIEGEL: And first, in these five years, how many ID cards has San Francisco issued?

KELLY: San Francisco has issued nearly 20,000 ID cards since the program's inceptions. We're averaging about 4,000 a year.

SIEGEL: And what can people who, say, don't have valid visas or green cards, what can they do with a San Francisco city ID card that they couldn't do otherwise?

KELLY: It's wonderful. This city ID card improves access to many of our services in the community. It allows them to access financial institutions so they can now open bank accounts and acquire ATM cards. It allows them to get library cards, access museums, city parks. It's been a wonderful way to promote a sense of community and it definitely is good for our public safety.

SIEGEL: Now, you know, I read a newspaper story from last year about New Haven, Connecticut's experience with this and they found that after, I think, 10,000 such IDs the number of people that use them for library cards was 50 or 60, a similar number had used them to open bank accounts at the main community bank. Do you have any sense of how many people have actually used their San Francisco ID cards for the functions you've described?

KELLY: We haven't collected that demographics. We just have the demographics on how many people have come and applied for an ID card and how many we've issued. We just have, anecdotally, we know that many people are Latino. I've heard from my neighbors that they have got the municipal ID cards so that they can go to the municipal golf courses and get discounts there. But we don't have the demographics on how many have opened up bank accounts or gone to the libraries.

SIEGEL: Your ID card in San Francisco goes one step further than New York City's. It doesn't identify the gender of the holder. What was the reasoning behind that?

KELLY: That's correct. And that's so our transgender population could access and get an ID card so all we require is a court order saying this is your name.

SIEGEL: What kind of documentation does San Francisco insist on before issuing a city ID?

KELLY: We basically just need your name, your address, a passport, an ID card from any other country, something with a picture with your date of birth on it just to prove that you live in San Francisco.

SIEGEL: Has anyone expressed a concern to you that, you know, I'm here without appropriate visa. I'm giving you all my information now. I'm giving directions for migration to find me when they chose to do so.

KELLY: No. You know, believe it or not, we have not had that fear and I think it's because San Francisco is a safe city of sanctuary. We have very much done what we could to encourage people to come out of the shadows, that we want to help them. We don't want them to be prey to folks on the street because they carry cash. This is an ability where they can go get bank accounts, get an ATM card.

We have not had the fear that there will be immigration raids.

SIEGEL: Thank you very much for talking with us about the San Francisco ID card.

KELLY: All right. Thank you very much.

SIEGEL: That's Naomi Kelly, city administrator for San Francisco. They've had a city ID there for about - since 2009. New York's new mayor just proposed a similar ID card. And by the way, the Public Policy Institute of California estimates that there are about 30,000 of what the institute calls unauthorized immigrants in San Francisco.

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