Detroit council approves municipal ID card program

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — The City Council on Tuesday signed off on creating a municipal ID card program for those who may be reluctant or ineligible to apply for a state identification but want access to services.

The cards will provide the homeless, senior citizens, immigrants and others with additional means to access city programs, services and activities and provide identification to law enforcement.

The cards won’t provide benefits over a state ID, but the requirements tied to obtaining one would be easier for some. A municipal ID also does not replace a driver’s license or state ID card, officials stressed.

Each card will be valid for up to two years and requires renewal. Application fees are not to exceed $25. The fee for minors, those 14-17 years old, will not be more than $10, according to the statute.

The council approved the ordinance 7-0. Pro Tem George Cushingberry Jr. and Councilman Scott Benson were absent.

Jesus Gutierrez, a native of Mexico who is working with One Michigan, an immigrant rights organization, was among a group that addressed council members Tuesday in favor of the program.

The 25-year-old said he moved to Detroit in recent weeks and that municipal ID cards are vital for many of the city’s immigrants, who, he said, live in fear and often face barriers in obtaining basic services.

“It’s so little, but for us it means so much,” said Gutierrez, who is undocumented and in the states on a political assignment. His ultimate hope is to gain citizenship. “We want to be part of the community.”

After the vote, Jose Franco, co-founder of One Michigan, called the approval a victory for the community, especially in southwest Detroit, an area with many undocumented citizens. He noted undocumented people can’t apply for a state ID or driver’s license, a rule he said has led to hurdles.

“It’s going to benefit a lot of people,” Franco said of the IDs.

Councilwoman Raquel Castaneda Lopez, who spearheaded the ordinance last year that also could benefit LGBT individuals and veterans.

“It really is a key step for us as we grow as a diverse and inclusive city and to highlight that we are welcoming to all, both old and newcomers to the city of Detroit,” she said.

The program will be administered by the Duggan administration’s Immigrant Affairs office, directed by Fayrouz Saad.

The city plans to begin issuing the IDs in August and will establish locations to apply for the cards by the fall, said Alexis Wiley, chief of staff to Mayor Mike Duggan.

Over the next few months, the administration will work to get banks and other institutions to ensure the cards will be accepted, she added.

The city will work with community groups in August to start a pilot. The program may initially be funded with quality of life loan dollars. Officials expect that the program could pay for itself with revenues from card fees.

Duggan said with passage of the ordinance the council has helped make Detroit more inclusive.

“This move helps our community’s most vulnerable, from our homeless to the elderly to undocumented immigrants,” Duggan said in a statement. “Everyone in our city will now be able to do the things that many of us take for granted, whether it’s getting a library card, opening a bank account or accessing city services.”

Saad said the city modeled its program after a similar program in Washtenaw County. New York, San Francisco and California also have municipal ID programs, she said.

The cards will at least display each cardholder’s name, photograph, address, date of birth, signature, identification card number and an expiration date, according to the ordinance.

To obtain the card, individuals must prove identity and residency and be evaluated on a point system.

Suitable documents to establish identity range from foreign or U.S. passports to state, veteran or employee ID cards and visas, homeless database information, educational institutions, state prisoner information cards, Social Service agency identification, bank records and others.

To verify Detroit residency, applicants can provide utility or credit card statements, unexpired housing lease or rental agreements, vehicle titles, insurance policies, letters from religious, social service or domestic violence groups and medical records.

Counterfeit of fraudulent cards could result in a misdemeanor charge, the statute notes.