Municipal IDs a Gateway to City Services for Undocumented Residents

Newark, New Jersey

Newark, New Jersey mandritoiu /


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For the first time, many Newarkers and New Yorkers are opening bank accounts and starting businesses.

Looking to grant undocumented residents access to some of the same services as U.S. citizens, cities have taken to issuing municipal IDs.

Newark, New Jersey, is the latest, its program launching Saturday , with the cards providing noncitizens with the identification they need to obtain business licenses and open bank accounts for the first time.

Outside of benefitting a new wave of immigrant entrepreneurs, those who frequently lack ID—the homeless, ex-offenders and seniors—can use their new cards to gain access to local shelters they’d otherwise have to forgo.

"The municipal ID will allow all residents a place to call home," Dr. Hanaa Hamdi, Newark director of health and community wellness, told .

Newark, where more than 750 IDs have been issued, followed the lead of New York City , which kicked off id NYC in January. There hundreds of thousands of the undocumented can now get housing and legal aid and interact with local law enforcement thanks to their cards.

In both cities, municipal IDs are obtained by showing proof of residency in the form of utility bills, pay stubs, passports, or credit cards.

“Ultimately having a municipal ID is going to be a quality of life improvement for undocumented communities in New York," Thanu Yakupitiyage, New York Immigration Coalition spokeswoman, told the International Business Times . "If an employer unlawfully fires you or abuses a worker and the worker wants to contest this in court, that person can now enter a public building such as a court.”

Bank account ownership makes the undocumented less attractive robbery targets because they no longer have to carry large amounts of cash on hand.

Newark’s mayor announced the city’s ID program at the end of January, and it was approved in mid-May—taking five months to implement. Much larger New York City took a full year from the time of announcement to begin issuing cards.

Dave Nyczepir is News Editor for Government Executive’s Route Fifty.

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