The Archdiocese of Baltimore will create its own form of identification card for members of churches, an alternative to government-issued identification that church leaders hope will make immigrants and others who have trouble obtaining identification feel safer in the city.
The mayor of Baltimore has endorsed the plan, and Baltimore’s police force said it will recognize the new “parish ID” as a valid form of identification.
“No one in our city should live in fear,” Democratic Mayor Catherine Pugh said at a news conference Wednesday at which she announced the new form of identification alongside Archbishop of Baltimore William Lori.
The primary purpose of the parish ID is to make residents of the city feel safe contacting police if they find themselves the victim of or a witness to a crime.
“The elderly, immigrants, so many young black men in our community, those who are vulnerable, who do not have ID, are targeted by people who know that they won’t call the police. And today we’re changing that,” said the Rev. Bruce Lewandowski, who worked with the activist group Build to create the new ID.
But Liz Alex, director of organizing at the immigrant aid group Casa de Maryland, said a government-issued ID would be far more valuable to immigrants who lack identification than a church-issued card. Immigrants can already access nongovernmental IDs, she said. Some would even worry about signing up for a church-issued ID, fearing that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents would somehow turn to the pool of people registered for parish IDs as targets for deportation, Alex said.
In numerous cities, from New York to San Francisco, city governments issue IDs to residents who might not be able to obtain a driver’s license.
Many schools require government-issued IDs for parents to enter the building, Alex said, and banks require a government-issued ID to open an account.
The parish ID card would be clearly marked as “not a government-issued ID card,” Lewandowski said. The card would have the name and address of the parish church that issued it, along with the cardholder’s photograph and a church-issued ID number.
The Baltimore Sun reported that to qualify, a cardholder must have been a member of a parish for at least three months and provide other identifying documentation as well as a witness who can verify his or her identity.
The requirement for church membership limits the card to Catholics. But Pugh said the effort will be worthwhile if the new cards are valuable to even a small number of Baltimore residents. “If this identification helps one person pick up the phone and call the police, it has done what it’s supposed to do,” she said to applause.