City Council approves municipal ID after emotional debate

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A Cook County ID would be similar to one already approved by Chicago - and that plan was modeled on the approach used in San Franciso. | Photo provided by The Center for Popular Democracy

After a lengthy and emotional debate, the City Council voted Wednesday to fulfill what Mayor Rahm Emanuel called a “moral responsibility” — by creating a municipal identification program to help undocumented immigrants come “out of the shadows.”

The vote was 44 to 4. The “No” votes were cast by aldermen Anthony Beale (9th), David Moore (17th), Nick Sposato (38th) and Anthony Napolitano (41st).

“We’re talking about spending close to $3 million on this process–and that’s low-balling. I can think of three million other things to do with $3 million, instead of creating a municipal ID,” Beale said.

“I still believe this is the jurisdiction of the state and federal government. Municipal ID’s should not be administered by cities. The state and the federal government do a good job of doing that.”

Although the debate had an “us-vs.-them” undertone, Emanuel cut to the chase.

He argued that aldermen have 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 by President Donald Trump and when the Trump administration has moved to deport its first Dreamer.

That’s the category used to describe students who were brought to the United States by their parents and were allowed to remain here under former President Barack Obama; they would be given greater protections under the Dream Act, a bill introduced in Congress but never passed.

“We are a welcoming city. Everybody in this chamber has, one time or another, talked about taking people out of the shadows into the daylight to help them,” Emanuel said from the rostrum.

The mayor told Beale he is “not wrong” that ID’s are the “purview” of the federal government.

“I would love for the federal government to be helpful….But, a short time ago, the President of the United States said he had a…soft spot for Dreamers. And just the other day, they deported their first Dreamer. It’s a clear case of an erosion of a principle,” Emanuel said.

“First, he said we’re just gonna deal with those who are creating violence. Then, you have a Dreamer…who signed up, gave their name so they could go to college. The best of the best, as he said. And then just one day next, that wall, that line got erased.”

At a time when undocumented immigrants are living in fear of the mass deportations threatened during Trump’s campaign, Emanuel also sought to assure 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.

“As soon as we get the information, we erase it,” he said.

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.

The municipal ID will not be limited to undocumented individuals and will be available to people with disabilities; also, people who are homeless or are victims of domestic violence will be able to designate an alternative address.

Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) argued that it is “misguided” to “imply” that a municipal ID is “solely to protect and provide an ID to the undocumented.”

“The group that would think twice [before applying] for this municipal ID will be the undocumented,” Maldonado said.

“With the fear coming down from Washington against the undocumented community and the fear that the federal government has the power like they do to investigate and subpoena local governments like ours, the fear is real.”

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