City of Chicago ID proposal moves forward

By Kevin Beese For Chronicle Media

Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia

A step to provide identification cards to Chicago residents unable to obtain driver’s licenses or state IDs has cleared its first hurdle.

The Chicago ID is seen as a way for undocumented immigrants, homeless individuals and seniors without the mobility or means to get to an Illinois Secretary of State facility a way to get required identification. City Clerk Anna Valencia said the move can help more individuals open bank accounts, get tax breaks on their home, and have identification when stopped by police.

The card, however, would only be accepted as a valid government-issued ID within the Chicago city limits, Valencia said.

The City Clerk, who has been on a listening tour about the proposal, estimated that between 5 percent and 7 percent of the city’s population would obtain the card. In an effort to get more citizens to obtain the city ID, it has been proposed that discounts at museums, attractions and stores be provided for card holders.

“There are barriers that exist in accessing an ID,” Valencia told members of the City Council’s Committee on Budget and Government Operation last week (Thursday, April 13). “… We often take for granted that almost everything requires an ID – from job applications to leases to setting up a cell-phone bill to picking up prescription drugs at the local pharmacy to entering schools and buildings.”

She noted the idea for a municipal ID came from a task force created in 2015 to address the needs of young people, seniors, ex-offenders, the gay community, domestic violence survivors, homeless individuals, immigrants and veterans.

She said the municipal ID would guarantee access to services for all residents.

The city has designated $1 million to examine what technology would be needed to make the municipal ID program work.

“We want this to be sincere, inclusive and a successful program,” Valencia said. “We can’t do this alone. As we work toward the next phase, we look forward to partnering with the City Council, community advocates and the rest of Chicago.”

She said too often needed identification keeps individuals from gaining employment or housing. She added that the growing number of homeless teens also makes the municipal ID a necessity.

Valencia noted that the city is looking to possibly combine efforts with Cook County in instituting the ID program.

She noted that similar municipal identification cards are already in use in New York City, San Francisco and Detroit.

Members of the Government Operations Committee approved moving the proposal to the full City Council for consideration.

Aldermen Anthony Beale (9th Ward), Pat Dowell (3rd) and Anthony Sposato (38th) voted against moving the proposal out of committee.

Beale said the $1 million would be better spent helping residents obtain a state ID.

“I don’t get complaints in my office that people can’t obtain any identification. If we do, it’s minimal,” Beale said. “I just think we are wasting taxpayer dollars, time and energy on this program. I think it’s a bad idea.

“I just think that right now people can go get ID. If they have a problem getting ID, I think we can probably spend a fraction of this money toward helping people obtain a state ID or a driver’s license. To come up with a municipal ID,  I think we are trying to skirt the system. It’s almost like we don’t want to go and do the necessary steps to get the correct ID so we are going to create another step to be able to give people identification.”

Tanvi Sheth of the Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois said the Chicago ID would benefit the transgender community.

“They have been especially marginalized,” he said of the current requirements that require individuals to list their sex at birth on their identification card or driver’s license.

Sheth, who was a female at birth but identifies as a man, said that 25 percent of transgender individuals report being harassed when showing their identification for access to a facility, 16 percent report being denied entry into a facility, 9 percent have been denied services, and 2 percent report being assaulted.

“IDs providing the proper sex of a person would be an improvement,” Sheth said. “It would go a long way toward protecting the transgender community.”



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