Cook County officials on Wednesday set out to create a county ID card for people living in the U.S. illegally and others, even as Mayor Rahm Emanuel presses ahead with his own plans to offer a city ID.
County Commissioners Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and John Fritchey contended a single county-level card for government services makes more sense than a city one because Chicago is in Cook County.
Garcia, who lost to Emanuel in the 2015 mayoral runoff election, said the need for a county ID is obvious given the millions of people who live outside the city. “While we applaud the efforts of the city of Chicago in issuing a municipal ID, approximately 2.4 million residents of Cook County do not have access at this time to such a card,” he said.
But Emanuel has staked his tough-guy stand against President Donald Trump in part on the success of the city ID, which City Clerk Anna Valencia hopes to begin issuing this year. It’s been part of Emanuel’s outreach to Chicago’s sizable Latino community since the mayoral election.
Garcia also took aim at Trump during a news conference to announce the ID proposal. “In the dark climate of xenophobia and divisiveness at the national level, here at Cook County we can choose to be inclusive and welcoming,” he said.
Like the municipal ID, the county card would be a way for people living in the country illegally, homeless people and others who don’t have state IDs to prove their identities in government agencies like public hospitals and police stations. Garcia and Fritchey said they will introduce an ordinance to the county board this month, and Fritchey they hope to begin issuing the IDs early in 2018 if the plan is approved.
The overlapping local ID programs could spur a political turf war, however. Valencia spokeswoman Kate LeFurgy said the city is already working with Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and other officials to integrate the city ID into county services. She called on Garcia and Fritchey to join in that collaboration rather than pressing ahead with creating another card.
“This is the first time we have heard about them going alone on a program that the city has been developing since 2015 with the help of community advocates, legal professionals and other intergovernmental agencies,” LeFurgy said in an email. “Government works best when we aren’t in silos.”
Fritchey countered that the county should lead the way. “This is not a competition, this is not a matter of who can do this better or who can do this first,” he said. “This is a matter of how we can do this best, how we can do this most efficiently.”
Valencia has a budget of $1 million to launch the city ID card. Fritchey said he expects it would take $300,000 to $500,000 to get the county one up and running.
Valencia’s office plans to not keep applicants’ addresses on file in a bid to assuage the fears of people living in the country illegally that federal immigration officials could get their hands on the data and come after them, but Fritchey said the county is planning to hold onto that information.
It remains to be seen whether the rest of the County Board embraces the plan. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle hasn’t seen the proposal, according to her spokesman, Frank Shuftan. “We have not reviewed it, determined who is impacted, how it might be funded and how it’s operationalized,” he said in an email.
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