"To be able to go to City Hall and get an ID card so people can have proof of residency is just a more streamlined process"
By Nicholas Kusnetz
A group of immigrant rights organizations in Contra Costa County is looking to create a municipal identification card in the East Bay, encouraged by adoption of a similar program in San Francisco.
"It would give a little bit of insurance for people to have something in their hands," said Miriam Wong of the Latina Center, a Richmond-based organization that teaches leadership skills to women in the Latino community.
Such an ID card could be used to open bank accounts, get library cards or just provide peace of mind, proponents say. Currently, San Francisco and New Haven, Conn., are the only jurisdictions with a local ID program.
Nancy, a 37-year-old Richmond woman who asked that her last name be withheld, came here from Mexico four years ago and said she lives in constant fear of being stopped by police. A locally issued ID card would help many undocumented immigrants, she said.
"It would make us feel safe," she said in Spanish, "so we can walk down the street without fear."
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a local ID card. Its backers say the card will help all marginalized people — such as youth, ex-convicts and the homeless — for whom obtaining a state ID is a cumbersome process.
"To be able to go to City Hall and get an ID card so people can have proof of residency is just a more streamlined process," said Pilar Schiavo, aide to Supervisor Tom Ammiano, who was the card's principal sponsor in San Francisco. The standard price for San Francisco's card will be $15, compared with $23 for DMV-issued identification.
While there have been no legal challenges to San Francisco's plan, some argue the ID subverts federal law.