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City Council speaker stresses new ID cards only for use citywide

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito speaks at Council

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito speaks at Council Member Ben Kallos's inauguration ceremony Sunday, Jan. 26, 2016. Credit: Charles Eckert. / Charles Eckert

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito reiterated Monday that the newly approved New York City ID cards are not intended for travel or access to services beyond city borders.

City officials are not in conversations with neighboring municipalities about accepting the ID, she said in a WNYC-FM interview.

"You cannot use this ID to travel," she said, later adding, "This is not a card that can be used outside of New York City. This is a municipal ID card for local city services, and I think it's a very strong message that we're sending with this."

The City Council last Thursday approved the municipal ID program by a 43-3 vote, with two members abstaining. The IDs, which Mayor Bill de Blasio supports and has indicated he will sign off on, will be available to residents regardless of their immigration status. Applicants must, however, provide proof of residency and identification.

Proponents hope the cards will help residents who did not enter the country lawfully to have a legal form of ID that enables them to open bank accounts, access libraries and public schools, and report crime or otherwise cooperate with law enforcement officials without fear of deportation.

Mark-Viverito has said officials, with the aid of the NYPD, will put security measures in place to prevent fraud, but will make the requirements for qualification more "flexible" than state-issued ID standards so a wider swath of people can obtain them.

The card, which will cost $8.4 million to put in place in the program's first year, should be available by the end of this year or the beginning of 2015, Mark-Viverito said. It will be the nation's largest ID program of its kind. Los Angeles, San Francisco and New Haven, Connecticut, have similar initiatives.

It is intended to benefit not only the 500,000 estimated city residents who are undocumented, but also seniors and the transgender community, which has applauded the option to identify on the card as a gender other than male or female, Mark-Viverito said.

Many City Council members, including Daniel Garodnick (D-Manhattan) and Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn), voted in favor of the ID program while acknowledging their discomfort about the many loose ends. Officials have not yet decided how to ensure the cards are secure, which types of documentation will be required to apply or how they will be weighted, and what sorts of "incentives" -- such as museum admission discounts -- will be attached to encourage legal residents and citizens to sign up.

Some council members also said they feared that the card would unintentionally stigmatize residents who are undocumented or that the program could allow a future federal administration and persecute who entered the country unlawfully.

Though the NYPD generally is supportive of the program, Commissioner William Bratton has expressed concern about fraud-prevention. Councilman Vincent Ignizio (R-Staten Island), the minority leader, last Thursday said unanswered questions about security led him to vote against the program in its current form.

The ID program is to be administered by the Mayor's Office of Operations.

Asked by WNYC-FM host Brian Lehrer on Monday whether the card can be used to skirt green card requirements for jobs or for fraudulent voting, Mark-Viverito said all federal laws will be respected and every effort will be made in conjunction with law enforcement officials to limit fraud.

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