Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to create a municipal identification card for people living here illegally and others sailed through the City Council on Wednesday, but not before a handful of aldermen voiced displeasure with the idea.
Emanuel, who sees the ID as a way to show he’s standing up to the federal government and President Donald Trump’s promise to crack down on people living in the U.S. illegally, spoke in favor of the plan during the 40 minutes of debate that preceded the 44-4 vote.
“We are a welcoming city,” the mayor said. “Everybody here has talked about helping bring someone out of the shadows, to help them get on with their lives.”
Emanuel said the federal government’s recent deportation of a recipient of the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program is “a clear erosion” of Trump’s pledge not to go after them. “Yes, we are helping people, but we are also creating a line of protection.”
The mayor called back to Chicago once welcoming black Americans in the Great Migration, saying the city allowed families from Alabama to come here to open businesses. “This is our moral responsibility,” he said.
But Far South Side Ald. Anthony Beale, 9th, repeated his criticism of the ID as a misapplication of funds, saying the state or federal government is better equipped to deal with the issue. During debate in a committee on the plan last week, Beale noted constituents in his overwhelmingly African-American ward aren’t clamoring for the city ID. South Side Ald. David Moore, 17th, also said he couldn’t support the plan.
Northwest Side Ald. Nicholas Sposato, 38th, who in recent months has come out against measures proclaiming Chicago a sanctuary city for people in the U.S. illegally, voted no on the ID as well, as did Far Northwest Side Ald. Anthony Napolitano, 41st.
Several aldermen, however, said the city needs to stand up for vulnerable populations like immigrants, homeless people, and those who have gotten out of jail and need IDs to get jobs.
“This is more than an ID, it’s a start” for people who often don’t get much government help, said South Side Ald. Raymond Lopez, 15th.
Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly, 42nd, said IDs aren’t a luxury, “they’re a necessity.”
With some immigrant advocates still concerned about federal immigration agents coming after people who apply for the cards, the mayor sought to assure them the identities and addresses of applicants will be safe. “As soon as the information is provided, we’re going to erase it so it can’t be used to entrap any citizens who have come forward to become part of the mainstream,” Emanuel said after the vote.
The ordinance allows Clerk Anna Valencia to spend $1 million to get the ID program started, though it leaves many questions about how it will be run. It’s unclear what proof of identification and residency people will need to show to get the ID, and exactly what benefits the ID will bring to cardholders.
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