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New York City Council approves law to grant ID cards to undocumented immigrants

The New York City Council recently announced that it approved the Mayor’s plan to give photo identification cards to all New York City residents, regardless of their immigration status. The Council and the Mayor heralded this effort as a victory for residents, many of whom do not have a current lawful immigration status and cannot obtain state or federal photo identifications.

The cards will be accepted by city agencies, will let parents enter school buildings and provide proof of identity for people stopped by police – which could mean the difference between spending a night in jail and being released.

Private institutions will not be legally required to accept the ID, but the city hopes banks and landlords will take it from people trying to open bank accounts or sign leases. (New York Post Article)

Many anti-immigrant groups will attack this move as pandering to illegals and making it easier for them to break various U.S. laws. However, unlike other cites’ efforts to ignore detainers issued by the Department of Homeland Security for criminal aliens, this effort by New York actually makes sense. Other major metropolitan areas like Los Angeles and San Francisco already issue municipal identity cards to residents regardless of their immigration status.

Anyone who has renewed or replaced a drivers’ license recently has come to realize that the REAL ID Act, a law passed by congress years ago, has made it exceedingly more difficult for anyone, U.S. citizens included, to obtain a valid state photo identification. Anyone who conducts any kind of business in life knows that without a valid photo identification, you might as well not really exist. Unless you can show a valid photo ID it is extremely difficult to use a bank, fly on a plane, get a job, obtain a medical prescription, and the list goes on and on.

What anti-immigrant detractors fail to realize, is that having a valid photo identification does not give you immigration status, or the right to work in the United States or any other federal benefit. People who are in the U.S. after having violated the FEDERAL immigration laws, have not broken any state or local law by virtue of their immigration status. If New York city wants to consider all residents of the city lawful residents ,regardless of their federal immigration status, that is their choice. Having a valid NYC photo ID will not stop ICE from arresting and removing someone in New York City who has violated the federal immigration laws.

New York city officials are smart to offer a chance to many of their residents to come forward and prove who they are to obtain a city identification and any city benefits that come along with it. These IDs will also help law enforcement and other city officials identify individuals. This decision actually improves the safety and quality of life for the residents of the city. This decision will make everyone safer, and give them more opportunities, regardless if they are U.S. citizens, lawful permanents residents, or people without lawful immigration status.