With a unanimous vote by the City Council Friday, Minneapolis joined a growing list of U.S. cities where residents will be able to obtain a municipal identification card.
The city ID program would be available to anyone in Minneapolis above the age of 13 regardless of their immigration status. But city officials haven’t answered how they would protect the personal data they collect through the program. The Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, the state’s public records law, does not include any exception for municipal ID data.
“We know that’s a serious concern and our plans are to continue to make sure that we try to address that as best as we can,” said David Rubedor, the city’s director of Neighborhood and Community Relations, the department that led the creation of the program.
The municipal ID is a national trend that aims to help immigrants without documents in an era of stepped-up deportations by federal agents. Critics of so-called “sanctuary cities” have criticized the ID programs as encouraging people to break federal law. But those sentiments were nowhere to be found at City Hall as officials held a public hearing about the program.
At Friday’s council vote, many Spanish-speaking residents were elated when council members approved the ordinance. After the vote, they posed for pictures with Mayor Jacob Frey.
“They are going to come out of the shadows,” said Uriel Perez Espinoza, vice president of the union Unite Here, whose members include hundreds of 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.”
Council Member Phillipe Cunningham, one of the two transgender members on the council, said it’s challenging for members of the transgender community to change their names or their assigned gender on official documents. This city ID program would allow people to have their preferred gender on the card, and “that is huge for the transgender community,” he said.
“This municipal identification program is an effort for Minneapolis by Minneapolis to share in on the benefits of this beautiful city and remove barriers to a basic necessity which is becoming a privilege, such as having a driver’s license,” said Council Member Alondra Cano, the chief author of the ordinance.
The municipal ID would allow residents with no other official documents to interact with law enforcement agencies, open bank accounts, obtain prescription drugs and register children for school.
City officials said the ID could also be used as a transit pass, library card or for getting discounts on restaurants and at local museums and theaters. At least three banks have agreed to accept it as valid identification.
“Minneapolis has always established itself as a welcoming city and this is just one more way to show that we all unified and together,” said Christina Kendrick, the lead city staff member for the municipal ID program.
The city will build the program in 2019 by hiring a project lead and acquiring the technology needed to produce the ID cards. The 2019 budget approved Wednesday allocates $200,000 for the program.
Advocates said they have been pushing the city to take up the municipal ID program for nearly a decade. The city has started developing the ordinance last year amid the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown.
“It’s been an ongoing effort, a struggle that we wish would have been resolved a lot sooner,” said Victor Ramirez-Juarez, a volunteer with Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee.
Mariano Espinoza, an immigration activist and Latino community specialist in the city’s Neighborhood and Community Relations department, said the community is now proud to live in a city where its voices are heard.
“It’s very rewarding for all of us who have been working on this issue,” he said.
After the council vote, community members went to a room across City Hall chambers, where Frey and other city officials talked to them about the significance of the vote.
“We want all of you, we want every single person throughout our city to have that sense of pride in where they live in their neighborhood,” Frey told the residents.
Orlando Morales came with his wife and three kids to witness the vote. He said he feels afraid when he’s driving and could not open a bank account or buy medications for his family.
“We’re very happy,” Morales said after the vote.