Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday proposed security standards and other broad outlines for his long-gestating Chicago municipal ID card program for immigrants and others, but the introduced ordinance leaves several unanswered questions about how it will work.
The measure the mayor brought before the City Council is aimed at assuaging the fears of those living in Chicago illegally and their supporters that President Donald Trump’s administration could use the information submitted by card applicants to try to track down and deport them.
City Clerk Anna Valencia’s office would be able to review documents provided by applicants to prove their identities and residency, but officials would not have permission to collect or keep that information, according to the ordinance. And the clerk “shall not maintain a record of an applicant’s address or telephone number,” it states.
The mayor’s move came as he continued to strike a tough pose in his defense of immigrants after Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week again threatened to withhold federal money from cities that don’t cooperate with federal immigration agents.
Emanuel on Wednesday downplayed the move as a response to a crackdown on illegal immigration that Trump’s administration has pursued in recent months, instead saying the ID will represent Chicago’s values as a welcoming city.
“This is a product of work that was started a year and a half or two years ago. I introduced the budget, which included the funding for the work on the municipal ID, in October. We passed it in November,” Emanuel said. “That work was about fulfilling my pledge that we are going to be a city that is open and welcoming to immigrants, open and welcoming and most friendly to immigrants.”
The proposal requires all city departments to accept the city card as a valid form of identification, a key point for Emanuel as he seeks to give undocumented immigrants a way to identify themselves while filing police reports, buying city stickers, paying bills or seeking to gain access to public buildings.
It remains to be seen whether people who are here illegally feel confident enough that their information is confidential to apply for the cards and then use them at a time when some immigrants reportedly are skittish about even going out to shop in neighborhoods such as Little Village that have large immigrant populations.
The ordinance also will allow applicants to self-designate their gender, a significant option for members of the transgender community who have had trouble with other forms of ID that can make it difficult to choose a gender different from the one on their birth certificates.
The mayor’s proposal lacks many specifics and leaves several components of the program to be designed by Valencia down the road. It does not specify what documents people can use to establish their identities and residency to get a card. Nor does it list places like museums or sports stadiums that might give cardholders discounts, an arrangement Valencia has said she wants to pursue in order to make the cards useful to people other than immigrants and the homeless.
It also allows Valencia to charge a fee for the ID, but doesn’t specify how much. There is $1 million in the city’s 2017 budget to pay for getting the ID program off the ground.
Asked about the ID program Wednesday, Valencia did not say what documents the city might consider to verify someone’s identification when issuing the cards. She also did not say what training would be put in place to verify the documents presented to her office are legitimate. And Valencia also had no estimate for how much the program might cost, but said her office was working on a request for proposals for technology that would be used to administer the cards
“We’re looking at an expansive list of documents we could use, whether it’s a high school transcript to prove residency or a letter from a nonprofit stating you live there while trying to get back on your feet …” Valencia said. “We’re still exploring this.”
In other City Council action:
*18- to 20-year-olds will be allowed to serve liquor in restaurants and ring up liquor sales in grocery stores under a measure aldermen approved, saying it will open up more jobs for young people around the city.
*Amplified street musicians and drummers on some downtown streets would be restricted to performing during particular hours under a hoped-for compromise aldermen introduced after musicians’ supporters questioned the legality of a proposed outright ban in some areas.
*Emanuel introduced a $160 million, four-year contract with a group led by Massachusetts-based energy-efficiency company Ameresco to replace 270,000 high-pressure sodium street lights with LED fixtures that use less energy.
The cost, city officials said, would be paid off with an anticipated $10 million in annual electricity savings.
*The mayor proposed allowing gun ranges in more areas of Chicago in response to a federal appellate court ruling that struck down the city’s zoning restrictions on the shooting facilities.
Chicago Tribune’s Hal Dardick contributed.
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