ID Cards For Undocumented Immigrants In LA Approved By Council


Kathleen Miles is the executive editor of Noema Magazine. She can be reached on Twitter at @mileskathleen.

Los Angeles will become the largest city in the nation to issue ID cards to undocumented immigrants.

The LA City Council voted 12-1 Wednesday to make a controversial Universal City Services Card available to the city’s over 400,000 undocumented immigrants, as well as to transgender individuals, foster youth, homeless and individuals without access to financial services, CBS reports.

Cardholders will have the option of using the card as a debit card, which will reduce their risk of theft by obliterating the need to carry large sums of cash. Councilman Richard Alarcon, who introduced the proposal, said there are currently tens of thousands of cash-only immigrants who are “literally walking ATMs for thugs,” ABC reports.

The debit service would also help put a stop to payday lenders, which gouge undocumented immigrants with exorbitant fees.

The ID card will allow undocumented immigrants to check out library books, pay bills, make reservations, take financial literacy and other classes, and use other civic services.

It will also aid undocumented immigrant parents who have reported difficulties in picking up their kids from school. And, in interactions with police, immigrants would be less likely to be confused for someone else, although it will be up to law enforcement agencies to decide whether to recognize the IDs, KFI reports.

Each card will cost about $15 to $20 and the monthly fee for the debit service will be about $2.99. The card will include a photo, street address, date of birth, height, weight and hair and eye color.

A few other cities, including San Francisco and Oakland, already issue ID cards to undocumented immigrants.

Councilman Alarcon said that the cards will bring undocumented immigrants “out of the shadows … into the true light of day,” VOXXI reports. Opponents, although there were none in the LA council audience, have criticized the cards as accomodations to lawbreakers.

City officials will solicit bids over the next 90 days to implement the cards, which could then be available as early as summer 2013.