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City Municipal ID Cards In Chicago Would Benefit More Than Undocumented Groups


The Justice Department issued a stern warning to nine so-called sanctuary cities on Friday - comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials or lose federal funding. The Justice Department sent letters to officials in New Orleans, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Miami, Milwaukee, New York, Sacramento, Cook County, Ill., and Chicago.

The warning comes soon after Chicago approved the issue of municipal ID cards that can be used to access city services. The cards will be available to all Chicago residents, including people living in the country illegally. Chicago isn't the first city to issue a local ID card, but Mayor Rahm Emanuel is ready to fast track the process with the help of our next guest. Anna Valencia is the City Clerk of Chicago. She joins us from her office in City Hall to talk about the new ideas. Welcome to the program.

ANNA VALENCIA: Hello. Thank you for having me.

SUAREZ: So if I'm a Chicagoan with a brand new city ID card, what will I be able to do with it? What services will the card give me access to?

VALENCIA: Well, we are exploring right now the card to also be a link to your transportation and to your library card. We're also hoping that it will get you a discount at cultural institutions similar to what New York City has done, as well as discounts at local retail. And we're also working with sporting teams and other ways we can find discounts.

SUAREZ: A lot of attention is being paid to the possibility of undocumented people getting a city ID. Who else might want one?

VALENCIA: There are a lot of different people that will benefit from this program, including returning citizens, seniors, LGBTQ, domestic violence survivors, homeless, young people and, of course, undocumented. So the card is designed for a lot of different people, not just one specific group.

SUAREZ: What kind of documentation will people need to provide in order to get a city ID?

VALENCIA: So we're looking at many documents that would be easier to get. It could be a signed affidavit letter for a nonprofit, you know, proving residency, could be a high school ID card, veterans benefits when you are signing up for the card, so there's many documentation that you can use to prove identity, a much more expansive list than, would you say, for a state ID or driver's license.

SUAREZ: Will immigration authorities, will federal officials be able to see this database?

VALENCIA: No. What we're looking at for the security piece because that security was our number-one priority especially after this last election, looking at making sure that our data is secure. And we looked at the San Francisco model, meaning we won't retain any documentation or addresses for this card.

SUAREZ: You know, the Justice Department is threatening to discontinue the city's federal funding in various areas because of lack of cooperation with ICE. Is this new card a form of pushback, a signal to both the federal government and the state of Illinois about the city's intentions in this area?

VALENCIA: Well, you've heard from the mayor and city council that Chicago is a sanctuary city and will remain a sanctuary city. It's a welcoming city for all people, regardless of your race, your gender, your ethnic background. So it's been an ongoing idea in policy. And like New York, San Francisco, Detroit, Oakland, this is the next step in the process is this municipal ID.

SUAREZ: Anna Valencia is the City Clerk of Chicago. She joined us from her office in City Hall. Thanks for coming on the program.

VALENCIA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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