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Los Angeles to Consider ID Cards for Undocumented Immigrants

10/15/2012 -Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says that providing a cityidentification card for undocumented immigrants could help reduce crime and make immigrants more accountable to their community.

The idea came from an effort to help immigrants open bank accounts so they wouldn’t become targets of crime because fewer people would be carrying cash. Councilman Richard Alarcon recently pitched the idea of a library card that coulddouble as a debit card, but Villaraigosa wanted “to go further and have the city begin offering full-fledged photo IDs,” the LA Times reports.

The $20 card would look like a student ID and would include “street address, date of birth, hair and eye color, height and weight.” It would allow card holders to establish proof of residency needed to open bank accounts, use certain social services, and also identify themselves to law enforcement, part of a move by LA County to encourage undocumented immigrants to communicate more with police.

Law enforcement would have a choice whether to recognize the IDs.

In an interview with the Times, Villaraigosa noted that several California cities already have ID cards for anyone who can prove residency regardless of immigration status. Supporters of the ID cards argue that receiving medical care, using a library, or having a bank account shouldn’t depend on immigration status. And in addition to reducing crime, it would make people more accountable to their communities.

Critics of the plan accuse Villaraigosa of a bigger trend toward a morelenient stance toward people who have violated immigration laws.

From the Times:

Earlier this month, L.A. Police Chief Charlie Beck announced that hundreds of undocumented immigrants arrested by his officers each year in low-level crimes would no longer be turned over to federal authorities for deportation. And in February, LAPD officers were given new guidelines allowing greater discretion when deciding whether to impound cars of unlicensed drivers, including those of illegal immigrants.

One official estimates social programs for undocumented immigrantscost LA County taxpayers around $1.6 billion per year.

A city council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday to consider the plan.

photo of Mayor Villaraigosa from theCity of Los Angeles