Community members in Charlotte, North Carolina, were asking local officials this week to approve a proposal for allowing undocumented immigrants to receive and carry municipal identification cards. The city council's immigrant integration task force recently recommended creating the cards, which would allow people to report crimes to police and access city services, but the task force hasn't yet voted on the controversial issue. In the meantime, local citizens have been gathering to debate the idea.
"It's not going to get anyone out of jail free for committing a crime, it's not going to allow them to vote, it's not going to allow them to do anything other than prove who they are," resident Nelda Leon told Time Warner Cable News at a Thursday meeting to discuss the cards, which were targeted at the 130,000 immigrants in Mecklenburg County.
The municipal ID card program was one of 27 proposals the task force endorsed in March. It argued the voluntary system would improve public safety by encouraging undocumented immigrants to report crimes and enabling police to identify suspects who otherwise wouldn't have a photo ID. The cards could also work as proof of residency, library cards and a way to pay for public transportation, the task force said.
— Guy Smith (@guysmith001) February 26, 2014
Local Democrats have been more supportive than Republicans. City council member Ed Driggs said he wanted to be sure the cards wouldn't violate or abuse federal laws, the Charlotte Observer reported. State Rep. Paul Stam was more direct, putting out a statement saying the cards would create "a dangerous threat to our citizens."
"Without the means or authority to investigate the individuals' background or identity, these cards give the illusion of legitimacy to individuals who may be engaged in criminal activity," Stam added.
Charlotte wasn't the first city to weigh the concept of municipal ID cards. New Haven, Connecticut, started a similar system in 2007, and since then cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City and Washington, D.C., have adopted them.