Why is photo ID so important?

Identification is key to ensuring the dignity and well-being of Wyandotte County residents. Proof of identity can act as a gatekeeper to many needs, including health care, the library, and the ability to participate in the economy.  Performing very basic daily tasks—like enrolling kids in school, filling a prescription, accessing healthcare services, cashing a check, or even reporting a crime to the police—are all much harder to do without government-issued photo ID.  When more people have photo ID, communities are safer, stronger, and healthier.  When more people have photo ID, economic development increases as more people are able to secure employment and engage with the business community; underserved neighborhoods benefit the most from this new economic development.

How is Municipal ID different from a driver’s license or other government-issued photo ID?

Municipal IDs do not give holders driving privileges, they cannot be used for air travel, and they are only accepted within the boundaries of the city/county that issues them (though other jurisdictions, government agencies, and companies may choose to accept them).

They are also different in that the barriers to getting a Municipal ID are much lower.  Local government, in this case Wyandotte County, sets its own rules about what individuals have to do in order to get a Municipal ID.  These rules usually involve far less red tape and barriers than the rules set by the state or federal governments.  For example, in order to get a state or federal ID, an individual has to provide a permanent address.  There are many people in Wyandotte County—for example, foster youth who by definition move around a lot—who cannot provide a permanent address, and so cannot get a state ID.  By setting its own rules, rules that reduce the barriers while still preventing identity fraud, Wyandotte County can make sure that more people have access to photo ID.

Who would benefit from a Municipal ID program?

Every single resident of Wyandotte County would be eligible for a Municipal ID, and so everyone benefits.  In addition, Municipal ID will make our community safer, stronger, healthier, and more prosperous for everyone.

In addition, nearly 1 in 5 Wyandotte County residents could benefit directly from the creation of a form of ID that is more accessible.[1]  That’s because almost 30,000 people in Wyandotte County belong to groups that struggle to get a driver’s license, non-driver’s license, or other government-issued photo ID.  Groups that would benefit include senior citizens, immigrants, foster youth, people reentering the community after being incarcerated, homeless individuals, and anyone who struggles to overcome the bureaucratic challenges of getting a state-issued ID.

Among the groups that may benefit most are immigrants and people of color.  Wyandotte County is the only county in the Kansas City region with a higher share of immigrants than the U.S,[2] and as many as 11,000 immigrants in Wyandotte County may struggle to get government-issued photo ID.  Nationwide, 25% of African-American adults have no current government-issued photo ID, and there is every reason to believe the same pattern holds in Wyandotte County.[3]

What are the benefits of a municipal ID program?

For one thing, we are all safer when every member of our community can come to police to report a crime or give an eyewitness account.  Many vulnerable residents fear interacting with law enforcement—including to report that they have been a victim of a crime, or a witness to a crime—because they lack government-issued photo ID.  Providing a photo ID option to all residents will increase cooperation with law enforcement and enhance community trust.

For another, economic development in underserved communities is hampered by a lack of ID.  People without ID struggle to gain or keep employment, or to access financial services of any kind.  Even cashing a check is a major ordeal.  With ID, residents are better able to find employment, access financial services, and stimulate economic development throughout the community.

How do we know it works?

Municipal ID programs have been successful across the country. Over two dozen municipalities have enacted municipal ID laws, with many more seeking them. These programs have resulted in increased crime reporting and significant reductions in crime.[4]  In nearly every case, cities have seen many more people apply for the cards than they expected, precisely because they work so well.  Every city that has established a municipal ID program has imposed stiff penalties for identity fraud involving the cards, and there has been almost no fraud as a result.

How do we make sure that vulnerable populations, especially immigrants, feel safe enough to apply for the program?

Many vulnerable residents fear interacting with the government at all, because they lack photo ID.  Certain populations feel even more fearful, because of immigration status or a prior criminal record.  Individuals who belong to these communities are often afraid that participation in a government program of any kind will target them for special attention later on, especially from the federal government.  In the current environment, immigrants are especially fearful that they will be targeted for persecution and deportation by the federal government.

In order to ensure that immigrants—and all Wyandotte County residents—feel safe and welcome in applying for a municipal ID, it is essential that formal policies are created to protect the integrity of data that all residents provide when applying for the ID, ensure that the program is administered in a community-friendly way, and limiting the participation of local law enforcement agencies in federal immigration enforcement to those responsibilities that are mandatory under existing federal statute and consistent with federal court rulings. With strong and robust policies on these points, Wyandotte County can lead the way in making all county residents feel safe and welcome.

Is a Municipal ID program, or limiting the participation of local law enforcement in federal immigration enforcement, legal?

Yes.  A Municipal ID program is fully legal, under both state and federal law.  In addition, local government has the full authority to limit participation in federal immigration enforcement.  No portion of the proposal made by the coalition is illegal under state or federal law, and neither federal nor state authorities could lawfully withhold funding from the Unified Government due to the adoption of the program.

Wyandotte County supports Municipal ID!

[1] An estimated 30,237 Wyandotte County residents are senior citizens, foster youth, undocumented immigrants, homeless citizens, or reentering citizens. Sources include: the Kansas Department of Children and Families FY16 Program Statistics for Wyandotte County, 2/18/17 Remarks by Mayor Mark Holland, Wyandotte County Homeless Services Coalition January 2015 Point in Time Count, and the Kansas Department of Corrections FY16 number of individuals released to post-Incarceration Supervision in Wyandotte County.

[2] Immigrants in the Kansas City Region, Randy Capps, Migration Policy Institute, (October 20, 2016).

[3] Citizens Without Proof, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law (November 2006), available at: http://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/legacy/d/download_file_....

[4] New Haven Marks Fifth Anniversary of Elm City Resident Card, City of New Haven, Connecticut, CITY OF NEW HAVEN, (July 24, 2012), available at: http://www.cityofnewhaven.com/Mayor/ReadMore.asp?ID=%7B434764C9-2C6B-4BB....