‘Chicago ID’ will offer more access to city services


Zoë Haworth

‘Chicago ID’ will offer more access to city services

By Savannah Eadens

Chicago’s expanded municipal ID program is reaching out to under-served residents with limited access to city services.

City Clerk Anna Valencia announced a “3-in-1” benefit to municipal ID holders, which will allow them to use the card as personal identification, Chicago Transit Authority card and public library card, according to a Sept. 13 press release. 

City Council passed an ordinance in April 2016 to create the program for Chicago residents, regardless of immigration or housing status, criminal record or gender identity. Mayor Rahm Emanuel allocated $1 million from the 2017 city budget to the municipal ID program, according to the press release.

However, community members are concerned about how the city will obtain and store information from undocumented immigrants.

“We wouldn’t do a program that we thought would ever put anyone’s information at risk,” said Kate Le Furgy, Valencia’s chief external relations officer. “We have created this program with security and fraud protection as our top priority.” 

Immigrant advocacy organizations such as the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights have worked with the municipal ID program.

“We wanted to make sure that any information that is retained would be minimal, so we strongly advocated [the city] not hold on to documents that applicants would provide and that any personal contact information be kept to a minimum,” said Fred Tsao, ICIRR’s senior policy counsel. “The city listened to that and wrote into their ordinance that they would not hold on to address or cell phone number information and is now going so far as to not even keep names.” 

Le Furgy said the program will be selecting a technology vendor for the card within the next few weeks, and the first cards will be issued in December to “test out the kinks,” with a full distribution in spring 2018. 

The city will accept a range of documents for the ID application, such as an expired foreign passport or utility bill, similar to New York City’s ID program. Chicago will be the first U.S. city to allow all municipal ID users to pay public transit fees with the card and self-identify their genders. 

Anne Bowhay, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless’ relations and media director, said the group is concerned whether homeless individuals will have to pay for the ID. What could be considered a modest fee to most can be prohibitive to low-income or homeless individuals, she added. 

“Individuals experiencing homelessness face many barriers to obtaining identification,” Bowhay said. “Identification documents are critical for access to employment, healthcare, public benefits and other services.” 

While the cost of the ID has not been finalized, the city is considering a $10 fee, and possible waivers for youth and senior citizens. Free IDs for homeless individuals are also under consideration. Le Furgy said the city clerk’s office is looking to create “mobile technology” to make the ID more accessible, rather than only offering it for distribution at City Hall. 

The ID program would also benefit individuals with criminal and arrest records when they are released from incarceration.

“[There are] 500 people released from our prison system every day, and the way the law works in Illinois is when you’re arrested, you have a small window of time where someone can come and collect your personal belongings, which often includes your wallet, and a government-issued ID,” Le Furgy said. “So if no one comes to pick up your things, regardless of whether you’re convicted of the crime, you lose your source of ID.” 

The program directors hope city institutions and museums will offer discounted rates or admission to those with a municipal ID.

“Encouraging all these other institutions to accept this card for identification purposes would encourage people to take advantage of opportunities they have in the city,” Tsao said.