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LA Library Cards For Undocumented Immigrants: City To Consider New ID For Those Without Driver's Licenses

09/11/2012 04:00 pm ET | Updated Sep 11, 2012
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The Los Angeles city council is considering a motion that would grant undocumented immigrants an official form of identification that could be used to open a debit account and grant access to other city services like the public library.

City Councilman Richard Alarcon introduced the proposal Aug. 18, and the motion's text emphasizes the LA Public Library's expanding community role as a provider of citizenship classes, financial literacy education and free tax preparation services for low income households.

But the proposal's biggest impact would issue a library ID card called a "Universal City Services Card" to anyone who can provide proof of LA residency -- in effect giving undocumented immigrants the opportunity to obtain identification that could help them open a debit account.

From the motion:

In addition, The Library and CDD should explore the potential to create a "Universal City Services Card" that would combine the use of a library card with a debit card and Work Source Center function, similar to what the Cities of Oakland, California and New Haven, Connecticut have implemented.

Alarcon cut to the heart of the matter in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, saying that his proposal would put a stop to payday lenders gouging undocumented immigrants with exorbitant fees. Access to a debit account could also cut down on undocumented immigrants being robbed of huge sums of cash that they otherwise wouldn't be able to deposit in a safe place.

"They can be scammed and taken advantage of," said Alarcon to the Times. "This will help end that."

Angelica Salas, executive director for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), released a statement to HuffPost in support of Councilman Alarcon's proposal. Here it is in full:

At a time when selling an ice cream, walking a child to school, or riding a bicycle to work can be mean deportation for hundreds of thousands of hard-working and contributing members of the Los Angeles community, we welcome and enthusiastically support the City Council’s proposal to issue library cards as a form of identification.

The City of Los Angeles is in the business of strengthening links between communities and their local services, establishing pathways to success for everyone, and welcoming the diverse communities that make this giant urban center their home. An identification card that pays for itself, keeps consumers from falling prey to unscrupulous lenders, and helps a family out of the shadows is an investment worth supporting.

The proposal heads to the Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee Tuesday (Alarcon is the chair of this committee and the motion is expected to pass easily). Once it is approved by the committee, the motion will be up for debate among the entire council. If the city council votes to pass the proposal and the mayor signs off on it, the Los Angeles Public Library System will begin preparing a series of reports on how to best implement the program.

If approved, the Universal City Services Card would not be able to replace a driver's license and does not protect against deportation. However, for a one-time fee of about $15 to $20 and a monthly fee of up to $2.99, users would be able to use a debit service to store their money locally, reports the Times.

The City Services card isn't the only proposed policy change that could enhance the lives of undocumented immigrants in California. Undocumented immigrants who qualify for President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy (DACA) and receive employment authorization will be able to apply for a state driver's license, announced the California DMV.

There are approximately 350,000 undocumented immigrants in California who qualify for DACA, and there are approximately 300,000 people in LA who don't have a bank account and could benefit from Alarcon's proposed City Services Card.

San Francisco and Oakland have enacted similar identification card programs for those who can prove local residency.

Councilman Alarcon's proposal as introduced:

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