City Offers ID Cards to Illegal Immigrants

John Christoffersen, AP, July 24, 2007

This city is becoming the first in the nation to offer identification cards to illegal immigrants, trying to bring them out of the shadows even as many municipalities crack down on them.

Beginning Tuesday, New Haven will offer the ID cards to all of its 125,000 residents, including some 10,000 to 12,000 illegal immigrants.

The cards will allow immigrants to open bank accounts and use other services that may be unavailable without driver’s licenses or state-issued IDs. If they can open bank accounts, immigrants will be less likely to carry large amounts of cash, a practice that makes them easy targets for robbers.

City officials say the cards will also encourage immigrants who are crime victims or witnesses to cooperate with police.

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Opponents say the cards will encourage more illegal immigration.

“It’s going to be a welcome mat for illegal aliens to come to the region, flood the labor market and dry up working-class and middle-class jobs,” said Bill Farrel, coordinator of the Southern Connecticut Immigration reform.

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The ID cards stand in contrast to new laws or proposals in more than 90 cities or counties around the nation prohibiting landlords from leasing to illegal immigrants, penalizing businesses that employ them or training police to enforce immigration laws.

New Haven already offers federal tax help to immigrants and prohibits police from asking about their immigration status. The new ID cards cost $5 for children and $10 for adults.

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DeStefano acknowledged that some immigrants may be reluctant to apply for an ID card because of the raids, but predicted most will still seek the ID cards.

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