IDNYC Overhaul Plans Raise Fears

(Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

In 2015, the city launched the IDNYC program to guarantee that all New Yorkers, regardless of their immigration status, could have an official ID that would facilitate access to services and benefits.

So far the ID is seen as a really safe tool for its 1,351,129 holders, and the city has successfully battled to maintain its strict confidentiality. However, an initiative that seeks to add a chip to the cards to expand its functions is raising worries that data of undocumented people could fall in the wrong hands.

That was the concern expressed this Monday at a City Council Committee on Immigration hearing by representatives of community organizations, pro-immigrant advocates and ID holders, who argued that the proposed changes, which would take effect on January 2020, might imperil confidentiality for thousands of undocumented New Yorkers.

The city’s intention is to expand IDNYC functions so it could be used for paying the subway, making financial transactions and as a valid document in pharmacies, among others.

“We are deeply worried about the direction that is being proposed for the IDNYC program,” said Natalia Aristizabal, member of Make the Road NY. “Up until now, IDNYC has been effective due to its simplicity, as well as because of the program’s commitment not to store the applicant’s data to protect information from possible excesses on the part of the federal government. However, the proposed changed are introducing unnecessary complications, as well as potential dangers.”

(…) “The proposed changes to use technology to link IDNYC with other programs have the potential to increase the risk of exposition for groups of people who at this moment do not wish to be exposed,” she added.

(…) “We agree with the goals [of the program expansion],” said Betsy Plum from the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC). “However, the way to reach those goals should not be through technological updates that put the IDNYC program’s security at risk, and particularly the addition of intelligent chips to the ID cards. It’s a dangerous and ill-advised solution.”

Plum added that an ID like the one proposed by the city would contain too much personal information, including the holder’s financial transactions (….) “The proposed changes go beyond the IDNYC’s original intent, which is to provide a safe government-issued ID for immigrants, homeless and other vulnerable New Yorkers. In fact, this runs completely in the opposite direction and creates a program that sacrifices the holder’s security.”

After learning about the city plans, Juan R, who got his IDNYC back in 2015, doubted whether he would renew it next year, and asked the de Blasio Administration not to unnecessarily increase fear in the undocumented community.

“Why would I want my ID to pay for the subway or get money from the bank; that’s what my MetroCard and bank cards are for. I only want it to use it as identification and feel secure,” said the Mexican immigrant. “What they should do is to allow the ID to enter nightclubs and bars, who don’t accept it, and also to open accounts in all banks and to pay for the credit card, because Capital One doesn’t accept it, and I even have an account with them!”

Chair of the Committee on Immigration Carlos Menchaca, who convened the hearing, also expressed concerns about the plan and called for caution.

“The main thing here is to protect all of our immigrants. That should be the goal,” said the Brooklyn councilman.” (…)

Bitta Mostofi, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrants Affairs, said that the proposal remains in a stage of evaluation, revision and analysis, and that maintaining confidentiality for ID holders remains a priority for the city.

(…) “I want to make very clear that if we are not confident that we will obtain all of the protections and benefits that we are seeking for IDNYC holders, we are not under any obligation to honor a contract, and if that is the case we will not do it,” she added.

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