By approving a municipal ID program last week, the Minneapolis City Council took a step toward making the city more inclusive and accessible. Council members OK’d a smart policy that will help more immigrant residents conduct business and fully participate in the city’s economy and civic life.
The IDs will not be only for the undocumented, who have been unable to open bank accounts or interact with city departments. Other city residents who don’t have a driver’s license, including teenagers, LGBTQ people, the elderly or disabled could apply for city IDs. Residents who have other forms of ID also may want the card if it can double as a library card or comes with discounts on services or goods, according to Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey.
City officials have not set a firm date yet, but they expect to begin issuing the IDs within the next two years. Important data-privacy issues about the information collected are not addressed in the ordinance but will be decided as the program is developed.
Now the city will develop a photo identification card that will include at least the following: full legal name, residence address, photo, signature, ID number, birth date and an expiration date. The cardholder will choose whether to display a self-designated gender and preferred name.
Any resident 13 years of age or older will be eligible to apply for the card, and the first one would be free of charge. The city’s 2019 budget includes $200,000 to implement the program. The city photo ID will be usable during interactions with all city departments, including first responders such as police, fire and EMT workers.
It is also important to note what city ID cards cannot do. They will be valid only for doing business within Minneapolis and in dealings with city offices, workers or services. They cannot be used for state and federal purposes. The city website explains that the card could not be used as a driver’s license or a form of voter identification. Nor does it grant access to other government benefits or serve as proof of legal age for the purchase or consumption of liquor or tobacco.
Opponents of the program say such IDs encourage violations of federal immigration law. But that argument doesn’t acknowledge the reality that thousands of undocumented people are already working, paying taxes, raising families and purchasing goods here. Allowing them to fully participate is beneficial not only to them but to the overall economy.
Access to IDs can also improve public safety. When undocumented workers can set up bank accounts, they are less likely to require being paid in cash and become targets of criminals. They are also more likely to call and cooperate with police when they’ve been victims of or witnesses to crime.
“They are going to come out of the shadows,” Uriel Perez Espinoza, vice president of the union Unite Here, said after the council vote. Members of his organization include immigrants who work at hotels, restaurants and the airport. “They will be able to stop violence, they will be able to talk to the police freely. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.”
In offering a municipal ID, Minneapolis will join cities across the country such as Detroit, New York, Chicago and San Francisco that have similar programs. Earlier this year, Northfield became the first city in Minnesota to issue the IDs.
As a study by the Center for Migration studies concludes, ID cards can be an important part of a city’s “strategy to regularize the lives of the unauthorized” and “help make cities safer, foster civic integration and participation and benefit cities economically.” All that will advance the city’s equity and inclusion goals and improve life for all.