The demand for New York City’s new municipal identification card, the most ambitious ID program in the nation for undocumented immigrants, has outpaced rollout expectations, the mayor announced this week. Three weeks after the program’s launch, there were still long waits to submit applications through an appointment system.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said more than a quarter-million card application appointments had been made as of Monday -- nearing the 300,000 planned annual enrollment announced at the program’s launch. As many as 10,000 IDNYC cards are already in people’s hands “or will be in the next week or two,” de Blasio said.
Thanu Yakupitiyage of the New York Immigration Coalition, an advocacy and training outfit for immigration service providers, said Tuesday several people among its 200 member organizations had already received cards. Having the ID in-hand makes it easier to convince undocumented immigrants of a promise that signing up won’t alert federal immigration officials, Yakupitiyage said. “People who work with us are of varying immigration statuses,” she said. “We wanted to set an example for the clients of our member organizations, to really show that this card is beneficial for all New Yorkers.”
The coalition had been working closely with de Blasio’s administration prior to the Jan. 12 debut of the card. To handle the demand, de Blasio said $5 million had been added for program staffing. More than 260,000 ID appointments had been made and a majority of those appointments were expected to be seen in the next 90 days.
The administration planned to make 90 days the standard window for processing applications. To reduce the longer wait times that have stretched into August, the administration began calling 42,640 applicants last weekend to move those appointments up, the New York Daily News reported.
IDNYC is already on track to beat San Francisco’s 6-year-old municipal ID program, on which the New York program was modeled. San Francisco’s program is currently the largest in the country, the New York Times reported.
The NYC ID program seeks to give all city residents equal access to basic services and cultural institutions, as well as a valid ID for interactions with city law enforcement agencies. An official with the mayor’s office said the card will continue to be free to people who sign up in the first year. A determination had not been made on the cost beyond that.
Critics of the program continued pointing to the long waits and the eligibility of undocumented immigrants as a form of reward and amnesty for those who illegally immigrated to the U.S.