BALTIMORE (WMAR) - "It's a wonderful day. An awesome and very special day for the most vulnerable residents of the city of Baltimore," Bruce Lewandowski, pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, said.
A new partnership between the city and the Archdiocese of Baltimore is helping thousands of residents who are unable to get government-issued IDs.
"Immigrants, the elderly, young black men and so many other vulnerable people need the parish ID," Lewandowski said.
BUILD, Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development, brought the idea to Pugh over the summer. Catholic congregations that choose to participate will be able to produce non-government non-government ID cards for parishioners that will be recognized by the city and the police department.
"The effort will help us strengthen relationships between law enforcement and some of our most vulnerable population. No one should become a victim and be afraid to call police," Mayor Catherine Pugh said.
Officials say many who don't have government-issued IDs hesitate to report crimes because they fear deportation. These IDs alleviate that fear.
"If one of those vulnerable people become a victim to a crime, they should be able to have an ID that they can present to police, that police can follow up on in terms of writing reports," Interim Baltimore Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle said.
They will be used to access public and private services, and ultimately, as a symbol of inclusion.
"We want a better Baltimore. This parish ID program instantly makes our city more safe and welcoming to all who call it our home," Archbishop William E. Lori said.
All of the information given to the churches to get the ID cards will be kept private. Baltimore City officers are going through training in the next 2 weeks to recognize them as forms of identification.