Municipal ID programs are a great way for cities to break down barriers for residents and impact marginalized communities immediately in a meaningful way, while also creating lasting, positive effects for everyone.
Creating a welcoming community is about more than getting to know your new American neighbors, it’s also about establishing tangible policies and practices that lead to better lives for immigrants and all residents of a community.
Welcoming America encourages communities to implement such practices across five strategic areas, including equitable access, which reduces barriers to services and participation.
Here’s a great example of how this works in a Welcoming America community: The Detroit City Council voted in May to create a municipal identification program aimed at residents who struggle to obtain a government-issued ID – these are the residents who face the greatest barriers and include the elderly, homeless, and immigrants.
The program will reduce barriers to participation for 12,000+ Detroit residents that lack such a document and therefore the opportunity to do things like open a bank account or cash a paycheck – things that contribute to full participation in community life as well as family and economic prosperity for the community as a whole.
"This really honors a basic human right of being recognized in society," said City Councilwoman Raquel Castaneda-Lopez.
Here’s a Q&A with Fayrouz Saad, director of Immigrant Affairs for the Mayor’s Office in the City of Detroit, about the new program:
Q: What impact do you hope to see in Detroit from this new initiative?
A: We hope that this card will help enable access to city services for all Detroit residents, which will including law enforcement, and private services and resources where residents might otherwise face challenges because of a lack of ID. We hope this card will empower impacted residents to be more active members of the city and society and allow them to interact with and Detroit without facing barriers.
Q: What has been the response thus far from community members?
A: The community is very supportive and excited for the IDs. During public hearings for the Council Committee Meeting and Council Meeting, the room was full of residents who came to testify in support of the ID. A number of testimonies included heartfelt stories of moms and children who faced challenges in picking up children from schools, accessing library resources, and other day-to-day level challenges in interacting with city officials just because of a lack of an ID.
Q: Tell us about getting the measure passed in city council – how did you work through this process and challenges; how did you address people’s fears to get them on board? I imagine there must have been some fierce backlash to giving voice to some of these folks, like undocumented immigrants. Other Welcoming America communities likely face similar issues, and your advice could be very beneficial.
A: We are very lucky to have Councilwoman Raquel Castaneda-Lopez, who sponsored the bill. She took the lead on engaging with each city council person directly to discuss the ordinance and what it means for Detroit residents. She made sure to highlight the different communities that can benefit from municipal ID, such as seniors, youth, homeless, and returning citizens, which helped show the broader impact and effect this program can have for many Detroit residents. She had one-on-one meetings and ensured that she answered everyone's concerns about the IDs. Due to her efforts, the ordinance passed unanimously!
Q: How does giving voice to all members of a community make the entire community stronger?
A: Communities are stronger when all members are participating. Giving voice to everyone contributes to a community across several areas - to public safety because people report crimes; to economic development because more businesses are opened, homes bought, and taxes paid; and to cohesive neighborhoods where neighbors interact and know each other. These are only some examples of what it does, and we believe the municipal ID program will contribute to building a stronger city.
The municipal ID program also is a great way for cities to break down barriers for residents and impact marginalized communities immediately in a meaningful way, while also building a long-term program with lasting effects.