Municipal ID launch is pushed back

Plans to marry same-sex couples this summer will likely delay the launch of a program to give city identification cards to illegal immigrants, according to Mayor Gavin Newsom’s office.

The Mayor has included $730,000 for the program in the budget he will unveil today, according to his spokeswoman Giselle Barry.

“These municipal ID cards will help improve public safety, and enable all of San Francisco’s residents to access city services consistently and safely,” Barry said. “The cards will be a mechanism for inclusion, allowing our government tobetter serve all of our city’s residents.”

The cards, which will identify the bearer as a resident of San Francisco, was originally proposed by Supervisor Tom Ammiano, who said that without identification, illegal immigrants are prevented from having bank accounts, which leaves them to become targets of robberies because they keep cash in their homes and in their possession. Having an identification card that can be presented to law enforcement will also prompt more immigrants to report crimes, advocates of the cards say.

Critics of the plan say that the cards legitimize illegal immigration. In February, Steven Camarota, director of research for the Center of Immigration, a Washington, D.C., think tank favoring tougher enforcement of federal immigration laws, called San Francisco “the most flamboyant city in the country when it comes to working against federal immigration laws.”

San Francisco was scheduled to start its municipal identification program in August, according to the legislation for the program passed by the Board of Supervisors last November, but Newsom’s office said it will more likely start some time in the fall. The postponement, the office said, is due in part to the recent California Supreme Court Ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, which is expected to result in more work for the county clerk, who will also be responsible for the city identification program.

When the program launches, San Francisco will become the first major city to offer the cards, but not the very first. New Haven, Conn., a city of approximately 124,000 residents according to 2003 Census data, adopted a similar ID last summer and issued nearly 5,000 cards in the programs first five months.

Launching the identification program in San Francisco will cost $730,000 next fiscal year, with $500,000 as one-time costs going toward the purchase of machines that can print the cards and other supplies and $230,000 for salaries of three new staff members to administer the program in the county clerk’s office, according to the Mayor’s Office. With cards costing $15 each, the program is expected to bring in about $100,000.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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