Commish Says Muni ID Will Improve Access to City for All

Nisha Agarwal (Photo by Yehyun Kim for Voices of NY)

Nisha Agarwal (Photo by Yehyun Kim for Voices of NY)

Municipal IDs will not get undocumented immigrants deported.

That was the message loud and clear from Nisha Agarwal, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism on Thursday, Oct. 30. Agarwal presided over a roundtable for reporters hosted by the Center for Community and Ethnic Media.

“It’s not like if you have the card you reveal yourself as an undocumented immigrant,” Agarwal said. “The information that will be associated with the card will certainly not be shared with the federal government.” She emphasized that the city will not be asking applicants of the card for their immigration status.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s flagship municipal ID program will create a form of identification for all New Yorkers but aims to cover many who don’t have any form of identification. Undocumented immigrants fall into this category, but also the homeless, some senior citizens and many who simply don’t have state driver’s licenses. Residents can begin applying for IDs this January.

Bitta Mostofi, director of the Municipal ID program, Nisha Agarwal, and Ellen Chang, commanding officer of the Community Affairs Division of the NYPD. (Photo by Yehyun Kim for Voices of NY)

Bitta Mostofi, director of the municipal ID program, Nisha Agarwal, and Ellen Chang, commanding officer of the Community Affairs Division of the NYPD. (Photo by Yehyun Kim for Voices of NY)

Agarwal was joined by Bitta Mostofi, the director of campaign outreach for the municipal ID program, and several members of the NYPD’s Community Affairs Division. Reporters grilled the group for details on the ID program, many of which are still to be finalized.

The ID will be for New Yorkers above the age of 14 and will be valid for five years from the date of issue. There will be no application fee the first year of the program but it’s not clear whether there will be a cost associated with obtaining an ID later on.

In order to incentivize enrollment, signing up for the ID earns you access and discounts to an array of museums, cultural centers and zoos. These types of perks will make the city “more accessible to everyone,” Agarwal said, not just undocumented New Yorkers.

The city is currently in the process of organizing and staffing several enrollment offices in each borough. And the city is still determining which forms of documentation will be accepted as proof of identity and New York residence when people apply for the card.

Agarwal and Mostofi clarified that there will be certain exceptions to documentation for homeless people or victims of domestic violence who may need to conceal their address.

The eligibility requirements though, the commissioner stressed, are simple.

“One, you can prove you are who you say you are,” Agarwal said. “And two, that you live in New York City.”

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