Baltimore City ID cards would benefit students, homeless and illegal immigrants if bill passes

Posted at 4:32 PM, Nov 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-29 07:45:32-05

A new bill would give Baltimore residents the option to get a city ID card, allowing access to recreation centers, libraries and even the ability to open a bank account.

Sponsor Councilman Brandon Scott said this bill started with Baltimore City Public School students.

"Now the school system is issuing IDs that they can use on the bus and once we pass this legislation, they can use this ID to get their library cards, you know Pratt Library, to gain access to a rec. center of Baltimore City as well," he said.

Scott said this could save the city money, by issuing only one, universal, card instead of three or four to each student.

After looking at similar programs in Washington D.C. andNew York, Scott and the city council expanded the bill to include adults.

"Homeless people are never going to have the documentation needed to get a state ID and when you talk about victims of domestic violence, a young woman who's been beaten by her husband and she ran away in the middle of the night. You're never going back to that house to get the information needed to get a state ID because you simply don't and shouldn't have to do that," Scott said.

He added recently released criminals and illegal immigrants would also benefit from the card. 

"A lot of focus is on the immigrant population because of the President Elect. While that is a very important part of this, for me, we need to protect the immigrants that we have here, we have to protect the refugees that we have here," Scott said.

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The card would also cut down on arrests, according to Scott, saying many people are arrested simply because they don't have a valid ID.

To get an ID, Baltimore residents can provide an array of information to the city. A few options are any valid U.S. ID, Social Security Number, Passport, Visa, a utility bill, or lease agreement. 

One group against the bill, the Federation For American Immigration Reform, said these cards make it easier for illegal immigrants to get services. FAIR Media Director Ira Mehlman said this bill "seems to be primarily geared toward illegal aliens in Baltimore," and provides false identification with information the city can't verify.

Scott said the city will do its due diligence in verifying the information provided, if the bill passes. He said the information residents provide will then be destroyed once a card is issued, to protect the resident.

"We will not be collecting people's information and trying to do big brother with it," Scott said.

Mehlman said that is directly against the laws of the federal government, and would interfere with deportation efforts.

In Maryland, several groups, like CASA, ACLU, and the Mayor herself, support this bill. Scott said he is confident it will pass when the vote on Monday, Dec. 5 takes place.

From there, it will take about a year to implement the cards, according to Scott. He said the city is working to create discounts with stores to encourage more people to get the card, and he's working on making the card MTA applicable.

"There are so many people who need services and can't access them primarily because of identification," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in support of the card.

If approved, this could be the last bill the mayor signs into law.

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