Local agencies want UG in WyCo to support Municipal ID Program

Across the country, cities are beginning to issue a Municipal Identification card for their vulnerable community members—undocumented immigrants, homeless, foster care youth, senior citizens or others who may have difficulty obtaining a government issued ID.

Sixteen organizations involved in Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas sent a letter September, 2017 asking Mayor Mark Holland and the Unified Government to establish a municipal photo identification card program. The letter states that in so doing it would ensure that Wyandotte County would be a safer and more welcoming place to call home.

The letter supported by AIRR, AILA Kansas/Missouri Chapters, Cross-Lines Community Outreach, IJAM, Kansas Forward Together, MainStream Coalition, restart, Inc., Stand Up KC, ACLU of Kansas, Cross Border Network, El Centro, Inc., Kansas Appleseed, Kansas Missouri Dream Alliance, MORE2, Sister Therese Bangert and Sunflower House said, “Having government issued photo identification confers a sense of dignity, access to vital resources, and strengthens community safety. Our organizations represent the broad and diverse groups that the Unified Government serve, and we see first hand the struggles that many Wyandotte County residents face because they lack access to a government issued photo identification card.”

According to Irene Caudillo, CEO of El Centro, Inc., “We had great support from former Mayor Mark Holland, who understood what other communities were doing with the municipal id. With Mayor Holland not re-elected it has held up some of our work. We now want to sit with our new Mayor (David Alvey) to see where he stands,” Caudillo.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas (ACLU) and El Centro along with other agencies in Kansas City, Kansas have heard from the community that they want an identification card.

“We are one of the organizations that want to put this in place. We have been working on this for probably well over a year. El Centro, ACLU, Hispanic Development and others have been coming to the table to discuss ways to make us a welcoming community,” said Caudillo.

She pointed out that a municipal identification card would be great for the Latino population, particularly the undocumented.

“They could feel as part of the community…and it wouldn’t be a program that just focuses on the undocumented. As people came to the table to discuss this, it is bigger than just undocumented, it would help people who are homeless, it would help those aging out of foster care, we also talked about those coming back into the community from penitentiaries,” said Caudillo.

As Executive Director of American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas (ACLU), Micah Kubic, Ph.D., heard from people that a municipal ID was needed in Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas, he began to approach others to discuss the idea.

“We decided it was worth a good hard look and it would be useful and would improve the qualify of life in Wyandotte County. We looked at the number of people in the county that would be impacted by this. We found that it was around 30,000 people out of about 150,000 people in the county that would benefit,” said Kubic.

The municipal ID card is a form of photo identification that is issued by a city or county government. It can be used to prove a person’s identity within the city or county limits or to access services from any institution that agrees to accept the card as proof of identity.

The municipal ID would not grant anyone new benefits or services, it would simply make it possible for the city’s residents to access benefits and services to which they are already legally entitled.

He pointed out that we overlook how many times we need to pull out our driver’s license for photo identification, and when you don’t have a photo ID it makes our daily lives more difficult.

“Without a photo ID you can’t have access to health care, you can’t enroll your kids in school or even report a crime. This makes the quality of life more difficult for that person. Having the ID helps communities engage with the police, especially those who have a fear of the police. If they have a photo ID they are more likely to interact with the police and tell them what they saw and it helps the police do their jobs,” said Kubic.

People may question why another photo identification card is needed when a driver’s license serves the purpose. Many may not realize that in order to get a state drivers license or a state non-drivers license photo ID, the individual applying for it must have a permanent address.

“There are citizens who are born here who do not have a permanent address. Foster youth do not have permanent addresses. That makes it challenging to get a driver’s license or a non-driver’s license ID. You don’t have that hurdle with a municipal ID,” said Kubic.

Both Caudillo and Kubic pointed out that the immigrant population must feel safe in applying for the ID. ‘It is essential that formal policies are created to protect the integrity of data that all residents provide for the ID, ensure that the program is administered in a community-friendly way, and limiting the participation of local law enforcement agencies in immigration enforcement to those responsibilities that are mandatory under existing federal statute and consistent with federal court rulings. With strong and robust policies on these points, Wyandotte County can lead the way in making our immigrant communities feel safe and welcome.’