(A municipal identification card on display during a press conference as Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the launch of IDNYC. (Credit: Uli Seit))
On January 12, 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito launched its municipal identification card program, dubbed IDNYC, for residents of all five New York City boroughs. In an attempt to bring official documentation to disenfranchised groups like illegal immigrants and the formerly incarcerated, a new ID card is being offered to anyone residing in New York over the age of 13 who is able to prove identity and city residency. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration said the program will help to enhance public safety by providing more people with identification and help to fight inequality. Funded through the mayor’s office with city funds, the 2015 budget for the program is $8.4 million.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said, speaking of the program, that “for New Yorkers who couldn’t have an official ID, this card is the key to a fuller life.” Such is especially true for the city’s undocumented immigrants, who without proper identification have trouble with many aspects of everyday life. Obtaining prescriptions, renting apartments and compiling with police officer requests all prove extremely difficult without a means of legally verifying identity. Mr. de Blasio also sought to ensure undocumented immigrants that “no one will be asked their immigration status in applying…for an ID because it’s not pertinent. If you’re a New Yorker, that’s all we care about.” The identification will not, however, provide access to federal, state, or city benefits and will not qualify as a work authorization permit.
Benefits of IDNYC include access to city buildings and some city services, and carriers will receive a free one-year membership to 33 cultural institutions, such as museums, zoos and concert halls. Reportedly, IDNYC does not authorize cardholders to drive, provide proof of identity to obtain a driver’s license, purchase alcohol or tobacco products, receive public assistance benefits, travel on an airplane, confer immigration status, or provide work authorization.
Additionally, the New York Police Department (NYPD) recently reported that it would recognize the identification. As such, the city anticipates the program will reduce arrests because low-level offenders that would have otherwise been arrested can now be issued summonses. NYPD Commissioner William Bratton said the program is “part of our larger mission to forge public trust with the communities we serve.”
Not everyone sees the program as a great social equalizer. Chairman of the Conservative Party of New York State Michael Long said the program is costly and encourages law breakers by legitimizing illegal immigrants.
“New Yorkers are already the highest-taxed citizens, especially New York City citizens, in the country, and we don’t need to be spending this kind of money on this kind of program,” Long said, adding that he doesn’t believe IDNYC will reduce strain on the police force.
There is some question as to whether the card, which is an official identification card bearing a photograph, may be acceptable for the identification portion of the Form I-9, required for employment with any U.S. employer. The law requires that All U.S. employers verify the identity and work authorization of ALL employees via the completion of a Form I-9. The I-9 process is supported by the employee’s provision of documents to verify both his/her identity and employment eligibility (by submitting an acceptable document or combination of documents from the list of documents – see USCIS’ website for more information on the Form I-9).
Under the Form I-9 procedures, an employee may provide a document which establishes identify (a List B document) along with a document which establishes work authorization (a List C document). List B contains a variety of acceptable identification documentation, including Item 2, “ID card issued by federal, state or local government agencies or entities, provided it contains a photograph or information such as name, date of birth, gender, height, eye color and address.”
Even though the card itself may not confer employment authorization, conceivably, it could be used to satisfy the List B requirement of a Form I-9. An employee must, however, still be able to provide an original List C document, such as an unrestricted Social Security Card, or Employment Authorization document issued by the Department of Homeland Security.
The major concern of opponents of IDNYC is that it may encourage illegal immigrants to obtain false documents, such as a false Social Security Card, in order to gain employment, and an employer would be none the wiser.
Interested applicants, who must be at least 14 years old, will be asked to provide documents confirming their identity, such as a passport, birth certificate or visa, and a document that confirms their residency, such as a utility bill. Once approved, the applicant will receive the card in the mail in 10 to 15 business days and it will be valid for five years. For more information visit the official IDNYC website.
Alka Bahal is a Partner and the Co-Chair of the Corporate Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP. Alka is situated in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland, New Jersey office though she practices throughout the United States and at Consulates worldwide. You can reach Alka at (973) 994-7800, or firstname.lastname@example.org.