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City Council approves municipal ID cards, so what does that mean for Detroiters?


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The Detroit City Council on Tuesday voted in favor of the creation of a municipal identification program aimed at Detroiters who struggle to otherwise obtain government-issued ID.

Ever imagine not being able to cash a paycheck, open a bank account, or even apply for a library card? That's what some 12,000-16,000 Detroiters deal with regularly.

The new city IDs, expected to roll out this fall, will seek to address those everyday issues for some of the most vulnerable of residents, including the elderly, homeless, and immigrants who lack legal presence in the United States.

Nationwide, about 11 percent of white Americans, 18 percent of citizens older than 65, and 25 percent of African Americans did not possess a valid form of ID, says a 2006 study from the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law.
Councilwoman Raquel Castaneda-Lopez, who spearheaded the effort to bring the program to Detroit, said council's vote removes barriers that many face in obtaining recognized identification.

"This really honors a basic human right of being recognized in society," Castaneda-Lopez told us following the vote.

Mayor Mike Duggan said no Detroiter deserves to live in the shadows of society. "This is everyone's city, and everyone deserves to enjoy all of the opportunities Detroit has to offer. This program ensures that all Detroiters, no matter their status or housing situation, have access to those opportunities," he said Tuesday.

Details about just what those opportunities will be will be hammered out over the next several months. What the municipal card does not cover are driving privileges, and it does not replace a state-issued license or ID.

The ID initiative is part of a series of efforts taken on by Castaneda-Lopez, who represents the city's diverse 6th District (which encompasses southwest Detroit), to empower residents who have long been left out of civic dialogue. Part of that includes giving voice to the city's undocumented immigrant community.

Soon after being elected in 2013, she co-founded the city's immigration task force, which moved to make Detroit a "Welcoming City" as part of a national initiative coordinated by Welcoming America.

The municipal ID program here came about after Castaneda-Lopez (Detroit's first Latin American council member) met fellow Latino city leader — Brooklyn, New York's Councilman Carlos Menchaca — during a conference for the New American Leaders Project in Washington D.C.

Menchaca led efforts to pass NYC's ID legislation in 2014. Since its 2015 inception, some 830,000 New Yorkers have signed up for the IDNYC program.

"Detroit is part of a national movement of cities that are taking responsibility to do what Congress has not been able to do, and that's joining in the chorus of hope for our immigrant communities," Menchaca said Tuesday of municipalities taking steps to be more inclusive to their residents.

Detroit's ID is not only for the immigrant community. Among the populations who also struggle with obtaining ID: LGBTQ residents, who will be able to use the city card to be recognized in the gender they identify with; people experiencing homelessness; and the elderly, who may no longer be eligible for a driver's license.

Detroiters of all backgrounds are welcome to apply. As is the case with the NYC program, the Detroit card will give residents access to discounts at cultural institutions and other activities.

Cards will be renewable every two years, will cost no more than $25 for adults, and no more than $10 for youths 14-17.

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