Bill Would Create Municipal ID in Philly

It's modeled on programs aimed at aiding undocumented immigrants in other big cities.

quinones city hall

Maria Quiñonez-Sanchez

City Hall may soon issue its own “municipal ID” to Philadelphia residents, a new form of identification modeled on programs in New YorkSan Francisco and other big cities with large populations of undocumented immigrants.

Though immigrants aren’t mentioned in the press release Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sanchez issued in support of the legislation — which she introduced at today’s Council meeting — she pointed to New York’s year-old IDNYC program as a model for the Philly effort. That program has been heavily promoted, and heavily covered, as aiding undocumented immigrants in that city, as well as homeless residents who otherwise find it difficult to obtain state-issued IDs.

Sanchez’s effort has the backing of Mayor Jim Kenney.

“There is no question that something must be done to help bring Philadelphians out of the shadows,” Kenney said in the press release. “Our entire city benefits when all of our residents can legally own an apartment, open a bank account, and otherwise participate in our economy and society fully.”

Sanchez’s press release even included a congratulatory quote from New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who spearheaded the program there.

Under Sanchez’s legislation, the city would issue ID cards to all Philadelphia residents upon proof of identity and residency. All city agencies will be required to accept the card — which features a photo, name, date of birth and address while excluding the cardholder’s gender and immigration status. The card would also come with benefits, like discounts at local businesses, financial institutions and cultural centers.

Immigration activists have long sought to provide state and local identification cards for undocumented immigrants. La Alianza Pro Licencias, a coalition of immigrant rights groups, last summer publicized its efforts to secure state drivers’ licenses for immigrants in Pennsylvania. But that effort ran up short in the Republican-controlled legislature.

Without a federally approved pathway to citizenship for many such immigrants, activists say a government-issued ID would offer assurances of safety and participation in society. Lucy Marquez told NewsWorks last year that she’d been turned away from an attempt to pay taxes at the IRS.

“I wanted to contribute, like everyone else contributes, to this country,” she told the radio station, “but they wouldn’t take payments from me or my husband. They said you can’t return until you have a legal identification.”

A study last year by Temple’s Sheller Center for Social Justice suggested the state would benefit from issuing IDs, suggesting that roads would be safer, for example, by reducing the number of unlicensed immigrant drivers.

Sanchez’s bill is co-sponsored by Councilwoman Helen Gym and Councilman Curtis Jones. Sanchez — who last week sponsored bills to make Philadelphia “the BCorps capital of the world” — is maintaining her reputation as a legislative powerhouse on Council.

“Municipal IDs will unlock doors,” Sanchez said, “so that all Philadelphians can fully participate in our city’s vibrant economic and civic life.”