Newark to Launch Municipal ID in July
Following in the steps of the Big Apple, Newark City Mayor Ras J. Baraka announced the launch of Municipal ID program June 1 to all of its residents, regardless of their immigration status, gender identity, lack of address, or previous incarceration history.
The program offers all residents of Newark, aged 14 and older, a valid ID card that will allow them access to vital services the city has to offer. This will be especially useful for marginalized people in the community such as those with disabilities, youth, seniors, clergy, formerly-incarcerated individuals, the homeless, immigrants and transgender people.Unlike New York City, where the program implemented early in the year is free, Newark, the Garden State’s biggest city, will charge $15 for the processing of the document, which will give access to most municipal services.“ “Today, we are proud to be Newarkers as we extend democracy to hundreds of our residents,” said Mayor Baraka. “This ordinance says that our door is open in the great city of Newark, and we are welcoming the entire world to help us create ‘Newark 3.0.’
We want to help all citizens and residents to engage with the city and its
resources. We want them to feel comfortable contributing positively to Newark socially, culturally and economically. We want them to join us in transforming Newark into a City that we can all believe in. With
this ID card, everyone in our City can truly say, ‘We Are Newark.’” “I do not doubt that some people will be afraid to come out of the shadows, but they need to think about the benefits they will receive. For example, when they have to file a complaint with the police, they will always be asked for an ID,” Council
Member-at-Large Carlos Gonzalez, said earlier.
This kind of fear is palpable on the streets, admitted an Ecuadorean man with no legal documents who would only identify himself as Gustavo. The Newark resident for 11 years said: “It’s not easy, there is always a fear that you will be on file after all, and that later on they may share the information with la migra [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement].”
Peruvian-born Efraín Vargas, a
Newark resident for 25 years, celebrated the decision. “I’ve got papers but, strangely enough, since I don’t drive I don’t have a driver’s license, and when I need to show an ID it’s such a drag carrying my U.S. passport. So this is great,” he said.
The city plans to issue a brochure similar to the one in New York, in four languages (English, Spanish, Portuguese and French-Creole), explaining the benefits and requisites to get the ID.
The mayor highlighted that the program “will benefit immigrants with or without documents, people with disabilities, youths and seniors, as well as ex-convicts, homeless and the transgender community, among others.”
The benefits include making it easier to open a bank account, discounts in prescription medication, and admission to local museums, libraries and other attractions. It will also help at least 350 street vendors to apply for city licenses, since most of them do not have an ID.
Diana Mejía, of the organization Viento del Espíritu, said the municipal ID is “a step out of the shadows. This is giving people the opportunity to get something as basic as an identification.”
Other than the Big Apple, Newark’s ordinance is similar to the one approved in 2007 in New Haven, Connecticut. The authorities have said that, as a result, the number of immigrant victims of thefts has reduced significantly as they do not carry cash and instead deposit it in banks now that they are able to open bank accounts. In 2009, the city of San Francisco also issued a municipal ID.
“It is our hope that Newark will be a model for other municipalities in the state, to help establish human rights and dignity for the immigrant community,” said Trina Scordo, executive director of Comunidades Unidas de Nueva Jersey.
Alix Nguefack, the detention project coordinator of the American Friends Service Committee, said that “this policy recognizes the fact that New Jersey is the state with the third biggest immigrant population in the nation, and much of them live in the metropolitan area of New York, Newark and Jersey City.”
Article Newark City Hall Press
Information Office and
El Diario/La Prensa.
Photo: El Diario/La Prensa.