Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is likely a happy man after the Los Angeles City Council voted 12-1 to back his proposal to create an immigrant ID card program in the city, which could help undocumented immigrants and as many as 450,000 city residents get access to banking and library services. (Photo : Reuters)
Undocumented immigrants in the city of Los Angeles may soon be able to open bank accounts, borrow library books, and pay utility bills after the City Council voted this week to support the creation of a new city identification card for such immigrants.
The city council voted 12-1 to begin soliciting proposals to create the identification cards, which would allow as many as 400,000 residents in Los Angeles the ability to access banking services and learn the way finances work, City Councilman Richard Alarcon told the Los Angeles Times.
"Everyone has used their service at one time or another,'' he said. "And yet we don't want them to say who they are and what their address is."
The program was originally proposed by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. However, it was not without controversy.
Opponents of the measure, such as the Granada Hills North Neighborhood Council, a local civic group in the Granada Hills district of the San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles, rejected a similar, more limited plan on the premise that helping undocumented immigrants open bank accounts was a federal policy, not a city problem.
While the card will pose a benefit for immigrants without access to such services, new cards can also be used by others who seek access to ID and financial services such as transgender individuals, foster youths, and the poor or homeless.
"It is an important document for us to become inclusive of immigrants into this society," Manuel Pastor, Director of Program for Environmental and Regional Equity at the University of Southern California, told ABC News and Univision. "It will benefit everyone."
ABC News and Univision estimates that 450,000 people in Los Angeles, roughly 12 percent of the county's population, have no access to banking services, making Los Angeles County the largest unbanked population in the nation.
With the creation of the card, immigrants and other individuals can pay $10 to $20 for an identification card that doubles as a prepaid debit card allowing cardholders to bank and spend as much as $3,000 monthly. And with the ability to bank their money, it could mean more security for thousands of immigrants that carry loads of cash on their persons, making them vulnerable to muggings.
"The card gives us security," Los Angeles resident Alma Bañuelos, 47, told ABC News and Univision. "We and our families have a lesser chance of being assaulted. And that gives us peace of mind."
Multiple immigration rights groups attended the City Council Meeting to support the creation of the identification cards, according to Annenburg TV News, based in the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
"This card would promote civic pride amongst all Angelinos and enhance the ability of all city residents to access city services and participate in the local and regional economy," Betty Hung, Policy Director at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, told Annenberg TV News. "It presents the city with an opportunity to serve all of its residents including populations that often have difficulty accessing financial institutions and city services."