With the recent rollout of IDNYC, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered on one of his campaign promises to provide a free municipal identification card to the most vulnerable groups in the city, but the program does much more than just that.
In some circles, it’s been dubbed an illegal alien or illegal immigrant card since it will allow nearly 500,000 undocumented people an approved ID to access government buildings, city services and programs, public schools and open bank and credit union accounts, and the NYPD will also honor the cards as valid identification. Greeted by long lines and much excitement, the New York City municipal identification card is now available to anyone older than 14 who can prove his or her residency.
Many right-wingers claim it’s a bad thing and just the next rung on a slide into total chaos, but they are sky-is-falling-sensationalists and, most likely also xenophobic bigots who poorly hide their dislike of anyone different.
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Providing a means for the most vulnerable in society — the homeless, formerly incarcerated, youth, seniors and undocumented immigrants — with free identification cards is also a way to give a tiny corner of the American Dream and a path to future successful endeavors.
But that’s, I suppose, only one side of the story as many actually oppose this reasonable program. Therefore, in the spirit of polarization and partisanship, let’s explore five reasons why those on the left are in favor, while the other side of the aisle opposes vehemently.
This debate, truly, is part of a larger discussion on the future of American society as the United States deals with the browning of the country through continued immigration. I have already made my choice, but the decision is yours.
First, the good about IDNYC
1. INCREASED ACCESS TO CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS
Clearly New York City has some of the best museums, theaters and art galleries on the planet. What ‘s bad about giving people a discounted way to connect culturally with something that is not normally targeted toward them?
Not to mention all the new visitors and subsequent funds that could come about afterward as a result of swelled numbers. Creating real cultural capital also helps educate people and helps provide for a more erudite population, which can’t be bad for the long-term future of the city — or any place, really.
2. NOT GETTING ARRESTED/PUBLIC SAFETY
If a police officer stops a person in New York City and they are without identification, that individual can be arrested for not being able to verify their identity. Keeping more people out of the city’s crowded prisons and jails is not only good for individuals, it will also put less strain on the overwhelmed courts and criminal justice system.
3. ACCESS TO CITY SERVICES, GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS AND PUBLIC SCHOOLS
The ID will now allow parents to enter public school buildings to pick up their kids, chat with teachers and become more engaged. This can only benefit parents, teachers and, most importantly, young students.
4. SOMETHING TO STRIVE FOR
As we all try to carve out some niche on this rock, it’s important to remember that even small victories can have big impacts on people’s lives. This could very well be the case with IDNYC.
The card may not seem like much for those born in this country, but conquering that first hill is the first step in climbing a mountain, and for the undocumented who come to this country to work hard and make a better life for themselves and their families, it’s a promising beginning that will likely lead to more accomplishments.
It could very well be many individuals impetus to becoming a naturalized citizen, voting in elections and contributing to this crazy thing we call a beautiful mosaic/melting pot, whichever you prefer.
5. A REFERENCE TO PROVE YOUR IDENTITY TO POTENTIAL EMPLOYERS
The ID can provide someone struggling and looking for work a first step to finding a job or spark them to go back to school for more education. Calm down — it’s not a work authorization, but could help legitimize a person in an employers’ eyes, and at least will serve as a reference, verifiable proof of who they are.
And now, the bad about IDNYC …
… or what some conservatives claim is bad about it, though they have been, somewhat surprisingly quiet since it was rolled out earlier this month, likely leaving their louder criticisms for another day.
1. A SCARLET LETTER
Some critics have argued the cards only made sense if the program drew from a diverse pool. Well, with thousands signing up in the first few days and the website crashing due to high demand, that doesn’t seem to be a legitimate concern any longer.
If the card did become similar to welfare or other stigmatized social programs that Republicans like to denounce, that could potentially be a bad thing, but it seems individuals are more proud to be included as a “New Yorker” than worried about that possibility.
2. PRIVACY CONCERNS
The privacy laws under the card in New York City are limited. This means that law enforcement does not need probable cause, as would be required normally, to request the cardholders’ information. Therefore, to get information on a person, police could do that by only showing that it’s relevant to an investigation, even if that is an inquiry into someone else.
This is a real concern, and the reason for the New York Civil Liberties Union not supporting the program. But, as Mayor de Blasio said, this is a theoretical argument that if taken to its limit would prevent legislation from addressing a real problem, not a reason to bock the program.
A city official has pledged “the city will work to protect individual confidentiality by destroying any documents the city holds after two years, and ensuring that any access from law enforcement will be subject to a judicial warrant or subpoena.”
3. ENCOURAGES LAW BREAKING
New York State Sen. Greg Ball said, “This will create a homeland security nightmare for law enforcement and the vulnerable civilian population of New York City and beyond.”
He and others have claimed the “cards will be used as breeder documents, not just by illegal alien workers, but by criminals and terrorists looking to open bank accounts, board planes and trains, execute lease agreements and ultimately harm New Yorkers.”
4. ANOTHER COSTLY, BIG GOVERNMENT WASTE
This is basically a not-so-hidden way for conservatives to oppose an issue while not explicitly saying don’t want tax money to fund cities or programs that primarily benefit poor people. If it were such a huge, unnecessary waste of money, it never would have been approved in the first place. What are they going to say next? That public schools are a bad thing for the government to fund?
Wait, many already have.
5. ANOTHER STEP TOWARDS VOTING RIGHTS AND IMMIGRATION REFORM
Finally, the real reason conservatives oppose the program is because they realize poor, disenfranchised people, if they have a voice in the political sphere and civic society, will support democratic causes which give them more power.
And why wouldn’t they? What has the Republican party done for them in the past 40 years? Republicans are also worried IDNYC is the first step toward comprehensive immigration reform, which is badly needed.
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Making almost everyone eligible for government-issued ID is a good thing for the city, state and country. This is not a liberal versus conservative issue, though, it just makes sense on both a public health and safety level.
The card is a tiny piece of what people struggle every day to achieve, and if you have made it here, from wherever else you came from or whatever you have gone through, you deserve something to help — and maybe even some cheap Broadway tickets as well.