The municipal identification card Chicago is creating to help undocumented immigrants come “out of the shadows” will double as a Ventra and a library card, City Hall disclosed Wednesday.
In late July, the city issued a request for proposals for the technology portion of the program that sought to identify ancillary benefits that might be tied to a municipal ID that include access to banks, cultural institutions and pharmacies that offer discounts.
On Wednesday, the first, and potentially most important of those side-benefits were disclosed and promptly approved by the CTA board.
It’s the ability to use the municipal ID that the city hopes to start issuing by the end of this year as a cashless card to pay CTA fares and access books and services at Chicago Public Libraries.
According to the mayor’s office, Chicago’s municipal ID program “stands to become the first in the nation to allow holders to use their municipal ID’s for public transportation.”
“A lot of people told us, `Don’t make this a card that’s sits in your wallet. So, we put our heads together to find technology we could put into the card,” City Clerk Anna Valencia said Wednesday. “New York did the library piece. But no other city could figure out how to do the transit piece. Under our agreement with the CTA, we will buy all our Ventra cards from them and use a digital printer to imprint onto the Ventra card. On the back of the card, there will also be a bar code for the library.”
By making Chicago’s municipal ID a “three-in-one” card, Valencia hopes to make the card more attractive, even for undocumented immigrants who fear the municipal ID will put them at greater risk of being deported because of the information that must be provided to the city.
“You don’t have to carry your library card and your Ventra card or even an ID. If you don’t have a state ID or a driver’s license, this will be a three-in-one card,” Valencia said.
“It’ll be more attractive. More people will sign up. It’ll really benefit people in workforce development trying to get jobs. If you’re an ex-offender, a nonprofit could put money on the card for transit,” she said. “You have the ID for employment training. And you have the library card to access the internet to look for jobs. Same with the homeless population.”
Earlier this year, the City Council agreed to create the long-promised municipal ID after a lengthy and emotional debate.
Although the debate had an “us vs. them” undertone, Mayor Rahm Emanuel argued that aldermen had a “moral responsibility” to help undocumented immigrants, homeless people, ex-offenders and domestic violence victims come “out of the shadows.”
That is particularly true, the mayor said, at a time when undocumented immigrants are living in fear of deportation. That’s a fear exacerbated by President Donald Trump’s recent plan to wind down protection for 800,000 undocumented children brought to the U.S. by their parents.
Valencia has assured aldermen that personal information that is provided to qualify for and obtain a municipal ID will not end up in the hands of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
To protect confidentiality, the city will ask for “minimal information” and will not ask applicants about their immigration status. Nor will the city retain copies of applicants’ personal information.
The name and date of birth will be the only information retained by the city. No home address will be required.
Applicants also will be able to self-designate their gender, a nod to the LGBTQ community.