San Francisco to consider city ID card

SAN FRANCISCO — If Supervisor Tom Ammiano has his way, San Francisco will become the second U.S. city, after New Haven, Conn., to offer its residents a city identification card.

Speaking to journalists and supporters on the steps of City Hall Sept. 18, Ammiano said legislation for a San Francisco municipal ID card would to be introduced at the Board of Supervisors that afternoon, with public hearings to follow. The cards would give people access to basic services, including homeless aid and libraries, as well as making it easier to apply for a job or sign up for the new city health care program.

The measure is backed by seven of the 11 supervisors, and Ammiano said Mayor Gavin Newsom has also expressed support. Under the proposal, all city departments and entities receiving city funds would have to accept the cards as valid identification, while the city would also encourage local banks to honor them.

Ammiano said that besides immigrant communities, groups benefiting would include homeless people, seniors without driver’s licenses, transgender people, and youth, groups he said are often treated unfairly because they can’t prove their identity.

“There is nothing more disrespectful than rendering invisible people you would rather not see,” Ammiano said, adding, “We are changing that in San Francisco in so many ways, and I think this municipal ID card will allow people the access and participation they deserve.”

Immigrant rights leaders, including Lillian Castillo of Young Workers United and Maria Poblet of St. Peter’s Housing Committee, told of the many problems and indignities immigrants experience because they lack identification, including being forced to carry large amounts of cash because they cannot open bank accounts and being unable to report a crime because they themselves would be subject to arrest.

Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval, co-author of the ordinance, spoke of the vacuum left by the federal and state governments concerning immigrant rights, including Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s repeated vetoes of driver’s license legislation. “We want to tell immigrant workers that we appreciate who they are and we appreciate their contributions,” he said.

“This card will legitimize everyone in San Francisco,” said San Francisco Labor Council head Tim Paulson. “We are for making sure all city residents have access to city services and protections.” In a brief conversation, Paulson said a city ID card, like a union card, “is a symbol that the same rights extend to everyone. As an act of solidarity, we want everyone in San Francisco to get a card.”

In New Haven, the first ID cards were issued July 24, and 3,348 cards were issued during the first five weeks.

At least 20 other cities, including New York City and Los Angeles, are reportedly considering establishing similar IDs.

mbechtel@pww.org