More help for illegal immigrants: Bill would establish New York City ID cards

New York could become the latest city to issue municipal identification cards regardless of citizenship, under legislation scheduled to be introduced Thursday before the City Council.

The cards would be available to all New Yorkers, but they would be targeted toward the city’s estimated 500,000 illegal immigrants. Among other things, the cards could ease their access to schools and libraries.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito have long said they supported the idea.

Applicants would need to show proof of city residency, along with identification such as U.S. permanent-resident card, a foreign birth certificate or a driver’s license, according to the bill’s language.

City Councilman Carlos Menchaca, a Brooklyn Democrat and one of the bill’s two co-sponsors, said the card would be designed to appeal to all New Yorkers—regardless of immigration status—and may include access to city museums or other institutions.

The cards would help immigrant parents get into New York City public schools, which require visitors to show a photo ID, he added. Illegal immigrants can’t get state IDs or driver’s licenses.

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“It’s hard hearing parents talk about how they can’t go to their children’s events because they can’t get into their school,” he said.

Councilman Daniel Dromm, a Queens Democrat and the bill’s other co-sponsor, emphasized that the card would be available to all New Yorkers. “I intend to get one,” he said.

Councilman Steve Matteo, a Republican from Staten Island, and an opponent, said the City Council had more important things to do.

“We need more police, fire, and sanitation workers,” he said. “We are going to be hiring more teachers to implement universal pre-K, and we still have 151 union contracts to negotiate. This should absolutely not be a priority.”

Cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and New Haven, Conn., already have similar ID cards.

Kica Matos, a former New Haven official, is now a spokeswoman for Fair Immigration Reform Movement of the Center for Community Change, an immigrant-advocacy group in Washington, D.C. She said New York’s ID would set an important precedent. “Hopefully it will inspire other large municipalities to do the same thing.” Ms. Matos said Wednesday.

Critics said the legislation would encourage New Yorkers to flout federal immigration law and pose a special security risk in New York because of the threat of terrorism.

“The city doesn’t know for sure who these people are. They could be creating false identities,” said Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, also in Washington, D.C.

A spokesman for Ms. Mark-Viverito said the legislation would be designed to deter fraud.