Newsom prepares for opposition to ID cards

Illegal immigrants in San Francisco and other residents will be able to get an identification card that establishes residency in The City under a plan in the works by Supervisor Tom Ammiano, which has the support of Mayor Gavin Newsom.

If The City were to adopt a municipal identification program, it would follow in the footsteps of New Haven, Conn., which began issuing local IDs in July. To date, about 3,000 of the cards have been issued.

A city-issued ID card would allow “everyone, regardless of immigration status, to participate fully in San Francisco civic life,” Ammiano said.

Newsom said he is prepared to deal with the criticism that would likely ensue from those who want stronger enforcement of immigration laws.

In April, the mayor came under attack from conservatives when he publicly condemned immigration raids in the Bay Area and vowed to stay true to San Francisco’s “sanctuary” status, promising that San Francisco officials would not help federal authorities in looking for illegal immigrants.

“I’ve told my entire staff and administration … that we’re going to support this and to get ready to work with [Ammiano],” Newsom told The Examiner on Thursday. “We’ll move quickly and I’ll make sure that happens to support these efforts.”

Because the legislation is still in the works, Newsom added that he still wanted to “see the details” but said that the idea itself was a good one.

In New Haven, applicants for the municipal ID card are required to present some form of identification — which can include an identification card, driver’s license or military card from a foreign country — and such proof of residency as a rental agreement, utility bill or employment pay stub.

“The municipal identification card is one more act of subverting federal immigration laws,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies, a group that advocates stronger immigration controls. “It turns the undocumented immigrant into the documented.”

A municipal ID card could be used to gain access to a variety of city services, including library services and San Francisco’s new universal health care plan for the uninsured.

In New Haven, several banks have already said they’d accept the city-issued card as identification needed to open a bank account, city spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said.

“In practical terms, in the New Haven example, it makes explicit the kinds of services that all residents can receive from the city,” said Audrey Singer, an immigration expert with the Brookings Institution.

“But I think more importantly, what it means, it sends a message to the people, to all residents, regardless of legal status, that you belong to this community,” he said.

Cards could become new trend

Although the first municipal identification card — available to all residents regardless of their immigration status — was issued in the small Connecticut town of New Haven, bigger cities may be ready to jump on board with the idea.

City officials from Seattle, Dallas and New York City, among others, have called with questions about the new ID program, New Haven spokesperson Jessica Mayorga said. And a councilman from New York City — Hiram Monserrate of Queens — has already proposed that the Big Apple start issuing the local identification card.

At least 20 other U.S. cities are considering similar programs, according to a report on the Web site

On Thursday, Mayor Gavin Newsom said he’s already given preliminary approval to legislation for a municipal identification card for San Francisco that is being worked on by Supervisor Tom Ammiano.

“It’s possible that this could have a ripple effect,” said Audrey Singer, an immigration expert with the Brookings Institution.

Issuing a municipal identification card is legal, but the cards will only have as much weight as the municipality can grant, UC Berkeley Boalt Law School Professor Maria Echaveste said. For example, in New Haven, the card can be used by the bearer to gain access to city beaches, the library, the city dump and municipal golf courses, among other city uses.

By the numbers

A look at the undocumented adult immigrants who live in The City

744,041: City’s population

22,212: Estimated number of undocumented immigrants

3: Percentage of S.F.’s population

– Source: 2006 Census, California Research Bureau, California State Library

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