NYC municipal ID advocates looking at fraud prevention

Mayor Bill de Blasio. Mayor Bill de Blasio. Photo Credit: Bryan Smith

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A proposal to offer municipal IDs to New York City residents, including undocumented immigrants, raised concerns about fraud prevention Wednesday at a City Council hearing -- even as legislators and community leaders voiced overwhelming support for the program.

"The council is very serious about safety and security," Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said. "We do not want these ID cards to end up in the wrong hands."

Mark-Viverito and Mayor Bill de Blasio's director of operations, Mindy Tarlow, said the program would follow standards set by departments of motor vehicles in determining what proof of identification or residency could be used to qualify for a city ID.

Foreign passports, consular IDs, birth certificates, utility bills, local property tax statements and other credentials could be used to apply, according to a draft of the legislation, but officials haven't finalized what will be accepted and how they will be weighted in the application process.

"It's really a two-part question: who you are and where you live," said Council Member Carlos Menchaca (D-Brooklyn), co-sponsor of the ID bill introduced earlier this month. "It's going to be a ways to get to that final list of documents, but this is an incredible start."

The IDs would be a means of bringing the city's estimated 500,000 undocumented immigrants "out of the shadows," proponents said, increasing access to health care and bank accounts and emboldening them to report crime or otherwise seek help from authorities.

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Police Commissioner William Bratton said police are helping to iron out the implementation details, and he stressed security is a priority.

"Certainly, we would have concerns as to the validation processes going forward. . . . The devil is going to be in the details, vis-à-vis standards necessary to support appropriate identification, particularly as it relates to our officers engaged in the performance of their duties," he said at an unrelated news conference.

Tarlow said the card itself would include a "full array of security features . . . such as holographic laminates, special cardstock material and engraved text."

Other logistical hurdles discussed included potential operational costs and application fees.

Officials and more than a dozen civic group representatives who spoke in support of the program suggested the ID must appeal to the broadest possible swath of New Yorkers in order to prevent it from becoming a "scarlet letter" for undocumented immigrants.

Some suggested attaching incentives such as restaurant and cultural center discounts.

"Any New Yorker should be proud to carry this ID," said Linda Sarsour of the Arab American Association of New York.

With Anthony M. DeStefano

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