New SF ID cards for residents - whether in the country legally or not

San Francisco Chronicle | November 13, 2007
By Wyatt Buchanan

San Francisco - The Board of Supervisors voted today to make San Francisco the largest U.S. city to issue municipal identification cards to its residents, regardless of whether or not they are in the country legally.

Supervisor Tom Ammiano, the legislation's author, said the availability of identification cards is a smart public safety measure because it would make residents living on the social margins of San Francisco more likely to seek the help of police and could give them more access to banking services.

"People are afraid to report crimes," Ammiano said, referring to illegal immigrants who avoid local law enforcement authorities over fear of being arrested or deported by federal immigration officials.

The legislation would require companies doing business with San Francisco to accept the municipal card as a legitimate form of identification - except in cases where other state and federal laws require other forms of proof of age, name and residence.

Under San Francisco's sanctuary ordinance, it already is city policy that no municipal government personnel or resources may be used to assist federal immigration officials in the arrest and deportation of illegal immigrants. 

Ammiano said banking institutions in San Francisco have signaled their willingness to accept the municipal ID card for the purpose of setting up accounts. He noted that people without bank accounts are frequently more vulnerable to theft and robbery.

The legislation, which was approved 10-1 on the first of two readings, has the support of Mayor Gavin Newsom. Supervisor Sean Elsbernd voted against the measure, noting afterward that his opposition was primarily financial in that the city doesn't know how much implementing the program will cost.

The city of New Haven, Conn., began issuing municipal identification cards earlier this year.

Supporters of tougher enforcement of U.S. immigration laws argue that local identification card programs have the effect of legitimizing the decisions of people who entered or have remained in the country illegally and make it more difficult for the federal government to enforce those laws.