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Concerns remain over municipal ID cards despite City Hall's confidence

Despite an "aggressive timeline," City Council members are confident that a plan develop a municipal ID program will go live before the year's end.

carlos menchaca city council The New York City Council's Immigration Committee, headed by Councilman Carlos Menchaca, heard testimony on Wednesday on a bill to create a municipal ID program.
Credit: William Alatriste/NYC Council

Despite what an administration official admitted on Wednesday was an "aggressive timeline," lawmakers are confident that a plan develop a municipal ID program will go live before the year's end.

Boosted by Mayor Bill de Blasio's repeated commitment to the proposal, the City Council held its first hearing on the program that would offer ID cards to 500,000 residents living in New York City without residency or citizenship documentation.


"Let it be known and let it be clear," Mark-Viverito said Wednesday, "that this is a priority of this New York City Council and we will have municipal IDs in New York City."

Mindy Tarlow, director of the mayor's operations office, told the Council that they were conscious of concerns from the immigrant community that an ID program might put undocumented residents at risk.

"This administration is emphatically committed to protecting the privacy of information gathered from this initiative," Tarlow testified, "and particularly attuned to safeguarding any and all information that could potentially hint at the immigration status of a card holder."

Throughout the hearing, however, Council members and witnesses alike often made reference to the fact that the card would serve a purpose beyond merely providing IDs to immigrants who lack state-issued documents.

The Council questioned what the city could do to make a city-provided ID card more attractive to all residents, including discounts to institutions or access to public libraries.

Other cities with simmer programs such as Oakland, California and New Haven also offer a debit card function.

Administration officials testified that they were in talks with other city agencies to see what crossover services the card might be able to incorporate, but that they did not expect to have safe and secure banking-related services in the card's first rollout before the end of 2014.

The city is still looking at different models and has not determined how much it might cost to roll out the program, with Tarlow admitting that the budget process is ongoing.

At least one Council member cautioned the administration to find partners in the private sector to defray the costs of what would become the largest municipal ID program in the country.

"This is going to cost millions of dollars," said Bronx Councilman Fernando Cabrera. "I can tell you from what I've seen in Oakland this is going to cost, minimum, we're going to be spending $50 million. Minimum."

At an unrelated press event, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said he supports the idea but expressed his own concerns over how officers can rely on the cards' veracity. He told reporters his team was still in "very, very early" talks with city officials.

"The devil is going to be in the details," Bratton said, according to Capital New York. "Does it meet standards necessary to support appropriate identification, particularly as it relates to our officers? … Is the person in fact the person identified on whatever card is finally agreed to?"

Follow Chester Jesus Soria on Twitter@chestersoria

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