11/15/2012 02:20 pm ET Updated Nov 15, 2012

ID Cards For Undocumented Immigrants In LA: Student & Immigrant Face Off In Debate (VIDEO)

LA's controversial decision to distribute ID cards to undocumented immigrants has been met by opponents who say the cards reward lawbreakers. HuffPost LA's Kathleen Miles went on HuffPost Live Thursday to inform a debate on the topic between a USC student and an undocumented immigrant.

USC student Ryan Townsend had written in an op-ed that the cards are "nothing but another step towards total amnesty for the nation's undocumented immigrants -- something that should be avoided."

Townsend said on HuffPost Live (video above) that the ID cards -- which will be available to anyone who can prove LA residence -- should be given out more selectively. "Once you have these cards for everyone … people are now having American banking accounts, they're paying utility bills, they're kids are going into the schools, and there really isn't anything that's different from just the normal everyday life of American citizens," he said.

He continued that the ID cards "create this partial citizenship status that can be very confusing especially when Congress and Washington DC haven't made up their minds about what they want to do about immigration reform."

He faced off with an LA undocumented immigrant who will benefit from the ID card, Erick Huerta. Huerta, a HuffPost blogger and student at East LA College, said that he sees the IDs as a political statement "to show that Los Angeles is a safer city" for undocumented immigrants.

"We just want go to school… we want to be able to supports folks in our family. We just want to contribute," he said.

As early as summer 2013, LA will make ID cards available to over 400,000 undocumented immigrants in LA. However, Miles said, "It's not being presented that way, though. It's being presented in a less controversial way, which is as a solution to the fact that 12% of LA County does not keep their money in a bank."

She went on to explain that LA Councilman Richard Alarcon, who introduced the measure, has focused on the financial literacy classes he hopes to get cardholders to attend at libraries. The card will also serve as an optional debit card so that cardholders do not need to carry around large sums of cash, which makes them vulnerable to theft.

In addition, the card will combine civic services such the Metro and parks and recreation membership. It will also aid undocumented immigrant parents who have reported difficulties in picking up their kids from school. And, in interactions with police, immigrants would be less likely to be confused for someone else, although it will be up to law enforcement agencies to decide whether to recognize the IDs.

Do you think the ID cards are a civil right or are an encroachment by a city into federal legislative territory?



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