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Oakland, California wants to bring its residents including illegal immigrants out of the shadows. The city is going to issue a municipal identification card to anybody who can prove residency. And that card doubles as a debit card.

Here's NPR's Richard Gonzales.

RICHARD GONZALES, BYLINE: In Oakland's predominantly Latino Fruitvale neighborhood, a group of day laborers are gathered for their weekly meeting.

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GONZALES: They talk about everything from immigration reform to keeping safe on the job. Then the conversation turns to the new city-issued identification cards and how to encourage people to apply for them.

MARIO SANDOVAL: (Foreign language spoken)

GONZALES: Mario Sandoval says everyone should get an identification card, especially for times when you have to deal with the authorities.

SANDOVAL: (Foreign language spoken)

GONZALES: Like if when you're driving and get stopped by the police. It's not a license, but at least you can identify yourself, he says.

The I.D. card is marketed by a Venice-based company, SF Global, in association with MasterCard and the Minnesota-based University National Bank.

Having access to such a bank is important to Marcos Rodriguez, so that he doesn't have to carry large amounts of cash. Otherwise, he says he's easy pickings for bad guys.

MARCOS RODRIQUEZ: You know, sometimes they got a knife or gun in their hands. You know, that happened to me like several times. You know, they stole my money and they beat me up. You know, and it's really, really hard for some of us.

GABRIELA GALICIA: Most people know that they are carrying cash when they are going home after work.

GONZALES: Gabriela Galicia works with the day laborers at Street Level Health Project, a non-profit that serves the undocumented and uninsured,

GALICIA: So, day laborers most of the time are seen as walking ATMs because they get robbed on the street.

GONZALES: Galicia's group is part of a coalition that's trying to get the word out about the city I.D. card. The project has been in the works for more than two years. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan says the card can help people anytime they deal with a city agency, be it the police or the public library. And the debit feature is important for people who have no place to put their money.

MAYOR JEAN QUAN: So this debit function will allow them to put their money somewhere safe and to avoid some of the really, really huge fees that they charge at these check cashing facilities in the Latino community or even the Asian community.

GONZALES: The I.D. card isn't free. It will cost $15 for adults, $10 for youths and seniors. And there are additional costs, such as depositing money into and withdrawing funds from the debit account.

Still, the I.D. card has it critics.

MARK KRIKORIAN: It's one more way of having a de facto amnesty for illegal immigrants.

GONZALES: Mark Krikorian directs the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank favoring strict immigration controls.

KRIKORIAN: This kind of measure along with, say, giving drivers licenses to illegal immigrants helps integrate illegal immigrants into our institutions in a way that is simply inappropriate.

GONZALES: But Mayor Quan says the card isn't just for the undocumented. She sees it as a way to bring banking services to citizens and legal residents who are poor and unbanked.

The city began accepting applications last week. The first ones will roll out in mid-March.

Richard Gonzales, NPR News, San Francisco.

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