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Amy Traub

Urban Identities: Municipal Cards Help Integrate Immigrants

A growing number of American cities are issuing ID cards that enable all residents to take part in the life of the community and access municipal services – even if those residents are unauthorized immigrants. An article in this morning's New York Times surveys these city polices, concluding that they are a response to the federal failure to enact comprehensive immigration reform. Unlike Arizona’s exclusionary new immigration enforcement measure however, these policies are positive, recognizing that undocumented residents are a valuable and indeed inextricable part of our cities.

In 2007, the Drum Major Institute recognized the first municipal ID law, pioneered in New Haven, Connecticut, as one of the best public policies of the year. As we wrote at the time:

The card ensures access to city libraries and parks and can be used to obtain bank accounts, car insurance, and apartment rentals. It also functions as a debit card for parking tickets and some downtown shops. The card benefits New Haven’s 10,000 to 12,000 undocumented immigrants who have easier access to private and municipal services, but it’s really a boon to every city resident. For example, undocumented immigrants can show their card to police who ask for ID, making it easier for them to report crimes and serve as witnesses, which increases public safety for the entire town.

Last week, DMI Immigration Analyst Afton Branche spoke about New Haven’s law at the National Convening of the Young Elected Officials Network. The timing couldn’t have been better: as today’s Times article attests, interest is growing in constructive city policies to integrate immigrants into the communities they already live in and support.

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Posted at 11:27 AM, May 17, 2010 in Cities | Immigration
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