Newly-appointed City Clerk Anna Valencia vowed Tuesday to expand the reach of a municipal identification program and prevent that sensitive information from being used against undocumented immigrants.
At a City Council confirmation hearing that was more like a love-fest, Valencia also promised to embark on the familiar “listening tour” of Chicago’s 50 wards to solicit ideas and introduce herself to voters in preparation for a 2019 election that will be her first run for elective office.
Valencia is certain to get an earful about the municipal ID at a time when undocumented immigrants are living in fear of the mass deportations threatened by President-elect Donald Trump.
Emanuel has promised that Chicago “is and always be a sanctuary city” where undocumented people can access city services and live without fear of police harassment.
But immigrants remain concerned that personal information required to qualify for a municipal ID may somehow find itself in the hands of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Asked Tuesday whether the city would share that information with the feds, Valencia said, “Oh, no. That’s why we’re working on a legal opinion.”
She added, “We’re working with the administration to find a…way to make sure that our data can be secure….New York struggled with that. San Francisco had a little more success. We’re gonna do everything we can possible to make sure that we can have secure data.”
Prior to Tuesday’s unanimous Rules Committee vote, Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) warned Valencia that the municipal ID initiative puts her on the political hot-seat.
“There’s gonna be a national spotlight on what Chicago does, especially as it relates to how we collect the information, what we do with it and how we protect our most vulnerable neighbors,” Pawar said.
Ald. John Arena (45th) urged Valencia to make the municipal ID a “useful tool and not just a card in a wallet.”
Emanuel wants Valencia to speed up the one-year timetable for implementing the municipal ID that will allow undocumented immigrants to access city services and expand the reach of that new ID.
Valencia is all for casting the broadest possible net.
“A lot of people don’t talk about homeless youth. It’s a real issue here in Chicago. And also the transgender community. That [ID] will also be a huge benefit. I also think [for] people returning from prison, this could also be something great,” said Valencia, 31.
“There’s a lot of folks that would benefit from this ID. Youth who can’t get an ID through a driver’s license. So, 14-year-olds. Parents concerned about students going off on their own. That has a lot opportunity and can offer a lot of benefits if done right.”
Aldermen had high praise for Valencia, calling the mayor’s former political operative a “rising star.”
But they also offered a few ideas for a $9.9 million-a-year office with 96 employees that “touches the lives” of Chicagoans through the sale of city stickers, residential parking permits and dog licenses.
“We stream video for City Council meetings for example. Perhaps there’s a role for that at the Plan Commission or other standing committees to allow more citizens who have to work during the day the opportunity to peek inside City Hall and here us as we are deliberating on major policy decisions,” said downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd).
Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th) noted that former City Clerk Susana Mendoza, the newly-elected state comptroller, “did a terrific job” in cleaning up and modernizing an office once embroiled in scandals that sent two former city clerks to prison.
“In today’s day and age of openness and transparency, there’s a distrust of government. The more open we can be and provide information easily accessible to the public and through the clerk’s office by keeping those records,” the better off the city will be, said the nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Rookie Ald. David Moore (17th) said he doesn’t know Valencia, but looks forward to building a relationship with her.
“I’ve talked with member of the Latino Caucus. They support you as one of their choices. I stand with them in supporting this choice as we would look for them to stand with us on future choices—whether it’s elected or appointed,” Moore said.
As for the listening tour, Valencia said it’s more than just an opportunity to introduce herself to voters.
“People have some really great ideas out there. I want to hear ’em. I’d like to take some of ’em and create policy. That’s when government works at its best. That’s something we haven’t done in a long time. And when you look at the last election, people want to be heard,” she said.