News & Resources

Municipal ID verification may enhance quality of life for undocumented immigrants

Jul 07, 2011 Brian Bradley

The Richmond, California, City Council recently approved a program to provide undocumented illegal immigrants with proper identity verification, according to KGO-TV. A second vote in two weeks is required to implement the ordinance. According to the news source, 40 percent of Richmond residents are of Latino descent, and the city estimates that at least 10 percent of them are undocumented. The lack of identification has its ramifications. "They're forced to carry large amounts of cash, therefore are specifically targeted for robbery and other violent crimes," city council member Jovanka Beckles tells the news source. Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin adds that many of these immigrants are afraid to contact police even if they are a victim of a crime for fear of being sent to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ID verification would provide them with a sense of legitimacy, as well as access to simple amenities such as library cards, a bank account and the ability to cash a check. "Of course we want to see a comprehensive and humane immigration reform policy and Richmond has stood for that consistently," McLaughlin told the media outlet. "While that seems to be stalled at the national level, we think municipal I.D. is really a step in the right direction." City police lieutenant Bisa French added that the IDs will give undocumented immigrants the sense that they can enter a police station and report crimes. However, because the cards will require little or no verification, critics of the ordinance believe it could actually raise security issues by inviting more undocumented workers into the state, overexerting government services. "If this ordinance passes, it will encourage higher illegal immigration and ... put more pressure on Richmond schools and other infrastructure and therefore on the city's budget, " Yeh Ling-Ling, of the Alliance for a Sustainable USA, told the news source. The Contra Costa Times reports that the rule may also provide incentives for police to hassle native-born residents for identification. Should the rule pass, Richmond will distribute the IDs through a yet-to-be-named third party. The news source notes that Oakland and four other city cities in California have implemented the program in recent years.