If you are an undocumented immigrant, you face problems dealing with the bureaucracies that perform essential services in our society. Unable to produce a valid ID, you might be unable to open a bank account. Furthermore, any contact with the police can escalate to being detained while the authorities determine who you are, which in turn involves notifying US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which might eventually lead to deportation. Having nowhere safe to put your money, you carry your meagre earnings with you. Having so much incentive to avoid the police, you have essentially no police protection. You become a “walking ATM”, an easy victim for robbery. Naturally, the criminal might target anyone who looks like an he might be an undocumented immigrant, extending the misery to a large portion of Hispanics in the community.
Several communities around America have devised a simple way to address this problem: issue people an ID. This is coming to Cincinnati. The Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati (MARCC) has entered into a “memorandum of agreement” with the Catholic Charities of South West Ohio to produce identification cards for people who want them. They are modeling their program on the one organized by the FaithAction International House in Greensboro, NC.
This initiative emerges from recommendations of the Human Services Committee, part of the Immigration Task Force formed by Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley. Two of the recommendations of the committee are pertinent to this initiative:
- a city-wide ID for immigrants,
- a fair detainment policy by local police.
The first step is to establish some program to issue an ID. The city government cannot do this, because the data collected would become a source of information for Immigration and Customs Enforcement and nobody would participate. The plan is to have the ID cards sponsored by MARCC, with the MARCC logo on the card, and administered by Catholic Charities, which already serves a wide population and is used to treating the information of its clients as confidential. Thus, it becomes possible to issue the documentation without that data becoming a tool for immigration law enforcement.
A follow-up step is to have a city ordinance enabling city departments, including the Cincinnati Police, to honor the MARCC ID card. For example, a police officer could issue a traffic ticket to one someone with such an ID without taking him to the justice center.
MARCC has established the following budget for the initial start up costs (source: “MARCC Identification Card Project”: hand out at MARCC delegates meeting, 9/9):
- Alpha Card System, with workstations $4,600
- Administrative Costs 700
- Legal / Professional 750
- Travel to Greensboro to see operation 950
- Total $7,000
(Note that staff time for planning and preparation is not included.)
Procedurally, MARCC plans to follow the example established by the program in New Haven, CT, which was copied by Greensboro. This program requires that the applicant produce both proof of identity and proof of residency. The MARCC ID card will expire after one year.
MARCC is trying to raise $10,000 from its judicatories to get the project off the ground. Once it is going, the project is expected to be self sustaining, using the fees ($10 or $15)
charged to the applicants to cover the expenses for the program going forward.
Cincinnati is not planning to become a “sanctuary city”. However, the city does appear ready to take this small step to make life better for a some of the people who choose to live here and, consequently, better for us all.