The city of Richmond next week will begin offering identification cards to immigrants, regardless of whether they entered the country legally or not.
The move could make the Madison County seat the first city in the country to issue such immigrant IDs—and draw Richmond into the large and sometimes fierce national debate over immigration reform.
In Richmond, City Manager David Evans said the cards will be used for identification purposes only and should help immigrants more easily perform tasks most citizens take for granted, such as cashing a check or properly identifying themselves to authorities.
“I think it would be more of a help than anything else,” he said. “I think it will be an asset for everybody.”
People interested in a card will be required to present two forms of identification such as a birth certificate or picture ID from their native country along with proof of residence in Richmond or Madison County, such as a lease or utility bills with their home address. A $10 fee will be charged.
The cards will not adjust a person’s immigration status or help them obtain a driver’s license, Evans said.
The decision to issue the cards was not voted on by the Richmond City Council, Evans said. The city already owns a picture ID machine, so it is not an ordeal to make the cards.
“It’s just something we can do as a public service. It’s a service we can offer,” he said.
The main force behind persuading Richmond officials to offer the cards is Sandra Anez Powell, migrant outreach coordinator with the Kentucky River Foothills Development Council in Richmond. Figures from the 2000 Census indicate 328 Hispanics live in Madison County; the real number is probably much higher.
Earlier this month, the mayor of New Haven, Conn., said he wanted to give immigrants a form of ID so they could access social services, open bank accounts or prove their identity.
But after radio talk shows and editorial writers pounced on the issue, Mayor John DeStefano Jr., also a Democratic candidate for governor, told the New York Times that his office was trying to determine “whether we could legally do it.”