Chicago Municipal IDs Vote a Major Step Forward

April 13, 2017
Sophie Vodvarka
Communications Coordinator
(773) 294-4909

Leaders applaud key City Council vote to move ID program for all Chicago residents, continue pushing for updated Welcoming Ordinance

A coalition of community leaders is applauding a key vote by a Chicago City Council to move forward with a Chicago municipal ID program.  The Committee on Budget and Government Operations approved an ordinance to establish the program by an affirmative voice vote with 4 abstentions. The municipal ID card will make Chicago a more welcoming and inclusive city for all residents, while specifically benefiting individuals who either cannot or have difficulty obtaining government-issued documents, including immigrants, homeless persons, persons with disabilities, returning citizens, and transgender individuals. During this time of increased hostility from the federal government toward vulnerable communities, Chicago and other municipalities are demonstrating how local governments can welcome and protect all communities.

If the city council approves the municipal ID ordinance, Chicago will join several other cities with ID programs, including New York City, San Francisco, Denver, and Detroit. Municipal ID cards benefit all residents by encouraging cooperation with law enforcement officers, facilitating access to city services and programs at libraries, parks, schools, and other institutions, enabling access to banking services, and encouraging participation in cultural activities and shopping at local businesses.  

Leaders from community organizations from throughout the city, convened by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) and Communities United (CU), have been instrumental in advocating for municipal IDs and for recommending best practices, particularly around protection of personal information. Under the ordinance, city officials will not save copies of documents submitted with application or retain address information to prevent any such information from being shared with other parties.

“The municipal ID will bring assurance to my community of people with disabilities that we will have equal access to more services in our city,” said Michelle Garcia, and organizer with Access Living, and a member of the coalition.

“The Chicago Municipal ID will give an alternative form of identification to all Chicago residents, and give residents a sense of belonging to this city which has always welcomed immigrants,” said Mayra Sarabia, leader with the Southwest Organizing Project.

“Passing the Municipal ID ordinance is a step in the right direction towards the larger goal of protecting various marginalized communities, including the transgender community, and upholding Chicago's inclusive values,” said Tanvi Sheth of Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois.  

“Today’s committee vote on the City of Chicago’s Municipal ID program puts us one step closer to having a truly affirming ID for transgender and gender expansive young people in the City of Chicago,” said Owen Daniel-McCarter, executive director of the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance. “We hope this ID is accessible to all young people, regardless of income and parental involvement, and will be recognized by Chicago Public Schools. We urge the City and CPS to take the necessary steps to allow students to change their gender marker in student systems across CPS.”

Many of the same organizations that have been advocating for the Municipal ID are also engaged in other opportunities to make Chicago more welcoming and safe for all residents, including a push to amend the city’s Welcoming City Ordinance. “We appreciate the Chicago City Council’s decisions on this so far, and urge them to continue their efforts to make the city truly welcoming and safe for all by updating our city’s Welcoming City Ordinance in addition to launching this ID,” said Fred Tsao, senior policy counsel at ICIRR.

"By listening to and learning from individuals who have experienced homelessness, Chicago’s Municipal ID Program has the potential to remove many barriers that homeless youth and adults face when attempting to obtain identification. We hope the Municipal ID Program will ensure that everyone in our city can accomplish basic things like opening a bank account, accessing health care, and taking full advantage of city services," said Tedd Peso, Manager of Advocacy and Community Affairs at The Night Ministry. 

Chicago’s Welcoming City Ordinance already limits city collection of immigration status information and interactions with immigration enforcement.  Further amendments, introduced by 27 aldermen in February, would remove certain loopholes to these general policies, bar city officials from facilitating any federal registry program that targets Muslims or other faith or nationality groups, and help immigrant crime victims seek legal protection.

The following organizations have been a part of the working group advocating for Chicago municipal IDs: Access Living, Centro De Trabajadores Unidos, Chicago Irish Immigrant Support, Communities United, Gift of Hope, Holy Cross Hospital, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, Illinois Transplant Fund, Mujeres Latinas en Accion,The Night Ministry, Saint Anthony’s Hospital, SEIU Illinois State Council, SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana, South Asian American Policy Research Institute,Southwest Organizing Project,Target Area Development Corporation, Transformative Justice Law Project, United African Organizations