Mayor Villaraigosa wants city ID card for immigrants

Article subtitle: 
Villaraigosa is pushing a plan for an official city identification card that would double as a prepaid ATM card to help undocumented residents get access to ban
Article author: 
Catherine Saillant
Article publisher: 
Los Angeles Times
Article date: 
13 October 2012
Article category: 
National News
Article Body: 

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is pushing a plan to create an official city photo identification card that could double as a prepaid ATM card and help immigrants get access to banking services.

The initiative could reduce crime because fewer people would have to carry cash, but critics say it's another ill-advised City Hall effort to accommodate illegal immigrants.

The idea for the city ID card originated in his office, the mayor said, as part of previous efforts to help immigrants open bank accounts so they wouldn't become targets of crime.

Councilman Richard Alarcon recently introduced a more limited proposal to create a new library card that could also serve as a debit card. But Villaraigosa said he wants to go farther and have the city begin offering full-fledged photo IDs.

A handful of cities, including San Francisco and Oakland, issue identification cards to anyone who can prove residency, regardless of immigration status. Villaraigosa said it's time that Los Angeles — home to an estimated 4.3 million immigrants — joined them.

"It will be an official ID," Villaraigosa said in a recent interview. "It will be as strong an effort as San Francisco's."

Any move to add the nation's second-largest city to those making official IDs available to undocumented residents is likely to intensify the debate over the role local governments should play in dealing with illegal immigrants ...

"The feeling was there are other ways for people who don't have documents to open bank accounts, and this is really a federal policy, not a city policy," said Gold ... (Granada Hills North Neighborhood council member Sid Gold) "The city should really focus on things important to the city like balancing the budget, fixing the streets and the transportation-tax proposal ...

In announcing the LAPD's new rules on reporting immigrants, Beck said that when undocumented residents aren't afraid to approach police officers to report crime or act as witnesses, the city's streets are safer.

But Mehlman, of the anti-illegal immigration activist group, said if Los Angeles wants to reduce problems associated with undocumented residents it should make life harder, not easier, for them, as states such as Arizona have done.

"At some point, you have to say something is wrong and that we are going to actually enforce laws."