UPDATE: The City Council has voted in favor of the municipal ID program, 43 - 3, with two abstentions. It will be largest such program in the nation.
“This is a step in the right direction, said Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform President Ciaran Staunton.
”It means that basic services such as opening bank accounts and having legitimate ID is now possible.”
Staunton said the next move will be to make driver’s licenses available to undocumented which will require state law.
“Would you prefer driving around knowing people have licenses and are insured rather than not,” he said.
“It is a no-brainer.”
The council is expected to vote in favor. If it passes, the program will go into effect by the end of 2014.
All New Yorkers who have some proof of identification – such as a foreign birth certificate or driver’s license – and proof of residence in one of the city’s five boroughs will be eligible for the municipal ID cards, regardless of their legal status.
There are an estimated 500,000 undocumented immigrants living in New York City.
Holding this form of government identification will make basic necessities, such as signing a lease, opening a bank account or seeing a doctor, possible for them.
A number of other cities across the country, including New Haven, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington D.C., and Mercer County in New Jersey have already established similar programs.
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito told the AP that the card will “provide a safe and secure identification to all New Yorkers, many of whom have never had them before.
"For too long, many New Yorkers lacked ID for a variety of reasons, but this smart, humane legislation will begin to change that and help many New Yorkers gain access to important city services that were previously out of reach,” she said.
In addition to undocumented immigrants, the municipal ID program is expected to offer relief to the city’s homeless, transgender and elderly residents, for whom obtaining official government identification can be a struggle.
The program is viewed as a step towards New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s inaugural promise to “not force any of our residents to live their lives in the shadows.”