Many people among us dwell in the shadows. They are undocumented immigrants, seniors who never had birth certificates, victims of domestic abuse hiding from their perpetrators. Lacking identification, these individuals are isolated from society.
The Phoenix Municipal ID would allow them to step out of the shadows – to report crimes, attend meetings at their children’s schools, visit museums, check out books at libraries, and become active participants in their communities.
Members of the City Council have expressed support for the One PHX ID. Yet for almost a year they’ve been stalling, taking months to decide whether to spend more months deciding whether to implement the card. This month, they’ll finally be voting. It’s time to put a flame under them.
A Change.org petition is aiming to urge Phoenix City Council members Daniel Valenzuela, Kate Gallego, and Laura Pastor to fulfill their promises and stand up for the dignity of identity. As of December 3, the petition was just 25 signatures short of its target – and surpassing the goal would send an even stronger message.
Nine cities have implemented a municipal ID program, including Oakland, San Francisco, and New York City, where more than 400,000 people now have a city ID card.
The card provides valid proof of identity and city residency, allows access to bus and light rail, streamlines the use of city services including libraries and community centers, and offers discounts at select shops, restaurants and cultural institutions.
It would benefit not just undocumented individuals but the entire population – everyone from the LGBT community to culture vultures who want deals at local theaters.
Earlier this year, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito spoke to community members at the Center for Neighborhood Leadership about how a municipal ID can change people’s lives.
“If you’re a senior that has had difficulty accessing some sort of state ID and you’re having difficulty accessing municipal services, then this great for you,” she said. “If you’re a member of the transgender community, this is perfect for you because you can self identify [gender] on the card.” For undocumented immigrants, she says, “It would allow them to go to schools and attend parent teacher nights, because without an ID they can’t walk into a school. And they also [can] be more engaged with the police if they’re witnesses or victims of a crime.”
Because police officers ask for identification, people lacking ID chronically underreport crime and endure abuse in silence. “There are a number of communities where it makes sense to have an ID card because it’s a safety issue,” says Joseph Larios, executive director of the Center for Neighborhood Leadership. “Having the police be able to ask for a form of ID puts everyone at ease. It puts the police at ease, and then individuals have something to give to the police when they’re only trying to be helpful.”
The ID can be obtained using various types of valid documents such as a foreign passport or consulate card. In New York, the city took numerous precautions to ensure documents are confidential and that the information will be destroyed after two years, so undocumented individuals can feel confident their status is safe.