MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
In New York City today Mayor Bill de Blasio made a pitch for a piece of plastic.
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO: One piece of plastic, but it's going to open so many doors for our fellow New Yorkers. It's going to make their lives better.
BLOCK: That plastic is a new ID card for New York City residents 14 and older, and they can get it regardless of immigration status. NPR's Hansi Lo Wang reports.
HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: Mayor Bill de Blasio said renting an apartment, opening a bank account and entering a school building will now be easier for this city's estimated half-million unauthorized immigrants. They're now eligible for city-issued IDs.
DE BLASIO: We don't want any of our fellow New Yorkers to feel like second-class citizens. We don't want them to feel left out.
WANG: And the IDNYC program doesn't leave out New Yorkers who already have ID. Here's how the mayor sweetened the deal.
DE BLASIO: A free one-year membership to 33 cultural institutions. That did get the attention of many New Yorkers.
WANG: Johanna Miller of the New York Civil Liberties Union says getting lots of New Yorkers, not just unauthorized immigrants to sign up, will be key.
JOHANNA MILLER: The success of this program depends almost entirely on having a diverse pool of cardholders. If the card becomes a scarlet letter for undocumented people then it fails.
WANG: Los Angeles is preparing to roll out an ID similar to New York's. They join cities like San Francisco, Oakland, California and New Haven, Connecticut, where only about 10 percent of the city's population has applied since 2007. New York officials hope their program will be more widely adopted and there were already long lines today at the Queens Library's Flushing branch, 75-year-old Ni Shaolong waited to apply.
NI SHAOLONG: (Speaking Mandarin).
WANG: "The ID is definitely a good thing," Ni says in Mandarin. He says he plans to use it to check out books from the public library and visit some of city's museums for free. For Wa Sutardji, an immigrant from Indonesia who makes sushi at a Manhattan restaurant, the new ID will help answer more practical questions.
WA SUTARDJI: Everywhere you go everybody's asking, can I have your ID? Can I have your ID? This thing is good for the people who don't have their ID, you know?
WANG: What may not be good, says Johanna Miller of New York Civil liberties Union, is that privacy protection for cardholders under New York City law is limited.
MILLER: Currently, this law unfortunately would allow law enforcement to seek your information by only showing that it's relevant to an investigation. And that could be an investigation about somebody else.
WANG: Miller says probable cause isn't required for law enforcement or other government agencies to request cardholders' information.
Hansi Lo Wang, NPR News, New York.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.