Phoenix Moves Closer to Issuing Municipal IDs

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Phoenix has moved closer to issuing municipal ID cards that residents, including undocumented immigrants, could use as a form of identification and to access a range of city services.

The Phoenix City Council voted 6-3 this past Friday to allow city staff to interview and begin negotiations with SF Global LLC, a company that filed a proposal to administer the municipal ID program in partnership with the city. The company already runs similar programs in two California cities, Oakland and Richmond. The meetings will take place over the summer; the council set August 31 as the date to review a proposed contract.

SF Global has proposed to phase in the program over three years. In the first year, it would create and issue the municipal ID. The second year would see a debit-card feature added, and in the third year, SF Global would expand the ID into a unified city-services card that could be used to access mass transit, community centers, and libraries.

The company recommends that in order to apply for a municipal ID card, a Phoenix resident must provide one of the two dozen documents on the Arizona Department of Motor Vehicles' secondary-ID list, among which are driver’s license, social security card, birth certificate, bank card, credit card, and school-issued photo ID.

SF Global suggests charging residents a fee of $25 for adults and $20 for seniors age 65 and older and youths who haven't turned 18.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton joined his five fellow Democrats on the city council to vote in favor of starting negotiations with SF Global, while the three Republican council members voted against it.

Supporters inside the city-council chambers applauded when the 6-3 vote was announced. Among them was Viridiana Hernandez, cofounder of One PHX ID, a group that has been advocating for the municipal ID card for the past two years. Outside the chamber, Hernandez celebrated with supporters and told them their two-year fight "is finally coming to an end."

Hernandez said the municipal ID card would be especially beneficial for Phoenix residents who currently don't have an ID or have had a hard time getting one, such as the homeless and the elderly. Additionally, she pointed out, the card would allow members of the LGBTQ community to select the gender of their preference.

A municipal ID might encourage undocumented immigrants to report crimes, Hernandez added, noting that as it stands, many undocumented residents are afraid to call police when they're victims or witnesses of a crime, because they fear they'll be asked for an ID.

Hernandez said she experienced that fear three years ago, after a break-in at her house. Because of her undocumented status, she had no state-issued ID.

"I finally called police, and that was because I got a lot of pressure from people to call," she recounted. "When they came to my house, they asked for my ID. I provided my school ID from Grand Canyon University and other forms of IDs, but they kept saying they were not valid."

Phoenix City Council member Jim Waring, one of the most vocal opponents of the municipal ID, said that because the card would be considered a secondary form of identification, he's afraid the city would be spending money on a program that "isn't going to be worth a whole lot."

"I don't think we should spend money on this," he said. "We have a lot of other priorities."

City Manager Ed Zuercher corrected Waring, noting that the proposed ID would be created at no cost to the city. Zuercher said the only costs would be paying city employees for the time they spend meeting and negotiating with SF Global over the summer.

If the council members approve the contract, Phoenix will join several cities across the nation that already issue municipal IDs, including New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

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