Charlotte Looking Into ID Cards For Undocumented Immigrants


by Audrina Bigos

 CHARLOTTE, NC - Should the City of Charlotte issue identification cards to people who are in the Queen City illegally?

Supporters say the cards would help thousands of people gain access to city services, while opponents say city-issued ID cards violate federal law.  

In June, the Mayor of Charlotte instructed the city's Immigration Integration Task Force to research municipal ID cards.

A half-dozen other cities around the country, including Oakland and San Francisco, already issue similar IDs. Most of the cards include a name, picture, date of birth and address.
To get a city-issued ID in Washington D.C., people have to prove their identity with documents like a birth certificate or passport. They also have to prove they have a social security number and prove they live in the city through utility bills or pay stubs.
"There's undocumented people living and working, just like you and I, in Charlotte and the surrounding areas. They have been for years and they will continue to do so," said Armando Bellmas with the Latin American Coalition. 
It's a reality Bellmas says has to be addressed. The Latin American Coalition is an immigration rights group that supports a municipal identification card in the city of Charlotte. Right now, immigrants in Charlotte are being arrested for not having identification and they can't volunteer in their kids' schools. 
"By the city of Charlotte issuing a municipal ID, it does not change someone's immigration status, it does not make them a citizen of the United States," said Benjamin Snyder, a Charlotte immigration attorney.
Snyder is with the Charlotte Immigration Law Firm. He says city-issued IDs would help Charlotte Mecklenburg Police keep communities safe.
"You have immigrant residents of the city who fear contacting police because they're afraid they might end up in deportation proceedings," said Snyder. 
"Because they're afraid of the ramifications involved with that, a police officer asking for ID, a hospital asking for ID," said Bellmas. 
Opponents like Ron Woodard with NC Listen say the cards would aid and abet undocumented immigrants.
"I wish the mayor were more concerned about unemployed citizens, especially given the African American unemployment rate in Charlotte. I wish he was more concerned about them than helping illegal immigrants stay in the city and keep their jobs," said Woodard. 
The ID could also help undocumented immigrants get into their child's school.
A Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools spokesperson says the district is not working with the city on the municipal ID research, but it is considering its own initiative.
CMS staff will meet with community members like Action NC Tuesday. 
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