As the city of Minneapolis prepares to create a municipal identification card for people living in the country illegally and any other resident who wants one, city officials are grappling with how to shield the data they collect through the program from federal immigration agents.
The City Council is drafting a municipal ID ordinance that would be issued to anyone in Minneapolis above the age of 14 regardless of their immigration status in early 2019. Residents could use the municipal ID to interact with the police, open a bank account, acquire a library card and receive city services. It won’t be a substitute for a driver’s license or serve as a form of voter identification.
City Council members want to vote on the ordinance before the end of the year.
Under the program, the city will collect a resident’s name, date of birth and address. Some or all of that data could be available through a public records request.
Unanswered questions about how the city will handle that data led to sharp exchanges Thursday at a City Council committee meeting.
“In this horrible environment, people who don’t agree with us certainly will be looking for that information,” said Council Member Lisa Goodman, who raised the privacy concerns associated with the program. “We don’t want to be leading everybody into a fishbowl and then having somebody exploit the fishbowl. That would make the situation worse.”
Council Member Alondra Cano, the chief sponsor of the municipal ID ordinance, declined to offer specifics on how the city would protect that information from law enforcement agents who might seek it.
Cano told Goodman that the city is taking a careful approach to the privacy and protection of residents’ data. She invited Goodman to a nonpublic meeting where they will discuss the program.
“This is a highly sensitive topic that we should probably discuss internally before we” disclose it in public, Cano said at the committee meeting.
“I’m worried about the unintended consequences of all these folks, giving us their names, we issue an ID, that information will be public,” Goodman said.
“Let’s stop talking about it,” Cano told Goodman. “It’s not a conversation I think we should have right now.”
Concerns over how to manage municipal ID applicants’ personal information have played out in cities that created similar programs. In New York, a judge has given the city the authority to destroy personal documents associated with the city’s municipal identification program.
In San Francisco, city officials decided to withhold from the federal agents the private data they collected from municipal identification cards.
In Minnesota, Northfield is the only city that has a local ID program. On its website, the city alerts applicants that their personal information is considered public under state law.
Minneapolis City Clerk Casey Carl, who oversees the city’s compliance with the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, said city employees who are experts in data management are working on how to retain the private data in a way that would not expose people to risk.
City Coordinator Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde, whose office is overseeing the program, said the city might partner with organizations and businesses, such as Village Trust, Sunrise Banks, Nice Ride Minnesota and Metro Transit, so that the ID could be used for those services.
Mayor Jacob Frey has allocated initial funding of $200,000 for the program in his proposed 2019 budget.
“The concerns and attention to data privacy is something that’s first and foremost on all our minds,” Rivera-Vandermyde said.