Immigrants Pleased by News of ID for the Undocumented

Mayor Bill de Blasio delivers the State of the City Address on Feb. 10, 2014. (Photo via video from NYC Mayor's Office)

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Feb. 10 delivering the State of the City Address, during which he discussed plans to create a city ID. (Photo via video from NYC Mayor’s Office)

When Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to create a city ID for all undocumented residents, pro-immigrant activists and union leaders erupted in joy, but happiest of all were those who experience firsthand the consequences of not having an ID card in their everyday lives.

“Every day, undocumented immigrants like myself are stopped and questioned by the police, and without a valid ID, we don’t have anything to show them,” said Gustavo Gómez, a Mexican immigrant who is a member of the organization Make the Road New York. “This ID will allow all of us to live without fearing the city government.”

For Vanessa Reyes, a transgender immigrant who lives in Jackson Heights, Queens, this measure is a big step towards defending her dignity.

“I leave my apartment every day with the fear that I’ll be stopped with an ID that doesn’t match my gender,” said Reyes. “This has happened to me a few times and I’ve been the target of ridicule and harassment because of it.”

José Calderón, president of the Hispanic Federation, an organization that strives to advance the rights of the most vulnerable Latinos, stressed the importance of an ID to carry out basic tasks.

“Those of us who are citizens don’t realize the difficulty of functioning in society without an accepted ID,” said Calderón. “These IDs will help the undocumented do things like file a complaint with the police or open a bank account, which are freedoms we can’t live without.”

De Blasio promised that the police and all city agencies will recognize this ID, but some activists are asking for guarantees that this will happen.

“Now we must work to ensure that the ID will be something easily accessible to all immigrants so that key departments, such as the NYPD, respect the rights of those who have it,” said Valeria Treves, executive director of the pro-immigrant organization New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE).

Besides undocumented immigrants, the initiative will benefit parts of the population who have trouble obtaining and keeping an ID, such as the elderly or homeless people. It is expected that processing it will cost a small amount of money, although much less than what is asked for state and federal documents.

“The city ID will help us document ourselves as residents of the community, even though we might not have a home,” said Owen Rogers, a member of the advocacy group Picture the Homeless. “To apply for a job or housing, they always ask us for a government ID, which many of us cannot afford.”

The mayor’s proposal will be submitted to the City Council for debate in the coming weeks so that it can be passed, and it has the support of City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. So far, no member of the council has expressed opposition to the measure, which, if passed, would go into effect before the end of the year.

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