Catherine Saillant, Los Angeles Times, October 13, 2012
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is pushing a plan to create an official city photo identification card that could double as a prepaid ATM card and help immigrants get access to banking services.
The initiative could reduce crime because fewer people would have to carry cash, but critics say it’s another ill-advised City Hall effort to accommodate illegal immigrants.
The idea for the city ID card originated in his office, the mayor said, as part of previous efforts to help immigrants open bank accounts so they wouldn’t become targets of crime.
A handful of cities, including San Francisco and Oakland, issue identification cards to anyone who can prove residency, regardless of immigration status. Villaraigosa said it’s time that Los Angeles — home to an estimated 4.3 million immigrants — joined them.
“It is clearly an accommodation,” said Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group critical of illegal immigration. “Los Angeles is making it easier for people who have violated federal immigration laws to live in the city.”
Earlier this month, L.A. Police Chief Charlie Beck announced that hundreds of undocumented immigrants arrested by his officers each year in low-level crimes would no longer be turned over to federal authorities for deportation. And in February, LAPD officers were given new guidelines allowing greater discretion when deciding whether to impound cars of unlicensed drivers, including illegal immigrants.
A City Council committee will discuss the ID card proposal on Tuesday.
Card applicants would have to meet “strict” criteria, the mayor’s office said. The card, which officials say would look like a student ID, would include a photo, street address, date of birth, hair and eye color, height and weight. Law enforcement agencies could choose whether to recognize the card, and it would not substitute for a driver’s license, the mayor’s office said. The card would not be accepted as identification required for air travel.