The Phoenix City Council voted to approve a city Municipal ID card, which would allow undocumented immigrants and other disenfranchised individuals to obtain proof of identification.
The ID card will permit citizens, who have trouble getting a state driver’s license or ID card, the ability to easily obtain city services such as mass transit, parks, and libraries through one card.
More than 100 supporters attended the council meeting in support of the proposal. About 30 voiced their support, many sharing stories about how they were victimized and couldn't call the police for fear they would be asked for their ID.
“This is very important to me personally because I was raped in 2012, when I was still undocumented,” Phoenix resident Raquel Guerrero told the council, fighting back tears. “I didn’t report it because, at the time. I thought talking to the police would cause further problems because I only had a Mexican ID card.”
Maria Cruz Ramirez, an undocumented immigrant, spoke through a translator about the troubles she’s faced without an ID.
“This ID would change my life and the life of the people in my community,” she said. “It would especially change my life because I would no longer be afraid of contacting the police if I needed their services for any reason. And I would also be able to help out at my children’s school.”
The youngest speaker was 11-year-old Ariana Garcia, who said she had campaigned to help elect Mayor Greg Stanton.
“I support One Phoenix ID because it would allow people like my parents to have an identification to feel safer and more included in our city,” she said.
The municipal ID card, expected to be available by summer, will have limited use. While the Arizona school system already has pledged to accept the card, it will not be a valid form of identification for establishing lawful residence in state, to obtain employment, or to register to vote.
Supporters have been pushing for the card since 2012 and say it would be most beneficial to the homeless or undocumented immigrants who have trouble obtaining identification. Critics, however, have argued that a unified ID card “legitimizes” the status of undocumented immigrants in the city.
The ID had gained the support of many different groups including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender organizations. The card would allow members of the LGBTQ community to select their chosen gender.
“It’s important for our community to be able to identify as individual and identify our gender,” Karyna Jaramiao, a transgender woman, said through a translator. “We suffer physical and verbal abuses without an ID. With an ID we would have a tool to stop the abuse.”
When the council approved the motion with a 6-3 vote, the room erupted into applause.
Councilman Michael Nowakowski introduced the motion and was one of the biggest supporters of the ID.
“I believe it is about being One Phoenix, it is about being one community,” he said. “And making sure Phoenix feels safe and that we are a city that is inclusive and accessible to everyone.”
The most vocal opponent of the measure was council member Jim Waring, who argued the card would be ineffective and expensive, costing more than $5 million. Funding for the card hasn't yet been allotted, although Nowakowski said the council is searching for solution that won't cost the city anything.
“It’s a card that doesn’t accomplish a whole lot,” Waring said. “It’s an extremely expensive item at a time when budgets are very slim.”
By approving the measure, Phoenix became the 10th city to create a city municipal ID. New York, San Francisco, and Oakland have similar unified city ID cards.
The three-year campaign for the card was led by One Phoenix ID, a coalition of business groups and civic organizations.
Viridiana Hernandez, 24, a program coordinator for the center for Neighborhood Leadership and one of the organizers of One Phoenix ID, said she was inspired by the need for a unified ID when her house was robbed.
“I was really scared to call the police,” she said. “At the time, I didn’t have an ID. I was undocumented.”
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Once she called police, the first thing the officer did was ask for her ID and was reluctant to even take her report. Later, while talking to others in the neighborhood, she learned there were dozens of neighbors who had been victims of crime but never called police.
“Our communities are targeted by criminals because they know people are afraid to call the police, even when they are the victims of crime,” Hernandez said.
She said she hopes the ID will help Phoenix become a safer, more united community.
“We have a state known for its hateful anti-immigration policies,” she said. “But we have a city with a council and a mayor who talk about Phoenix being a city that welcomes everyone.”