New York City has taken the lead where Congress has left off. Whereas Congress has failed to be proactive in any way in tackling our country’s mess of an immigration system, the Big Apple is stepping up to help its undocumented citizens. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced earlier this month that he plans soon to urge the city to issue municipal ID cards to undocumented immigrants in the city. While there still is some question as to the scope of this proposed program and how much it would empower immigrants, overall this is a very positive measure. New York City should be applauded for its progressive thinking and, should this policy be implemented successfully on such a large scale, they have set an example for the rest of the nation.
This idea is actually not a new one. However, it has never been applied in a place the size of New York City. Several cities have instituted like programs with tremendous results. For example, crime rates in Fair Haven, Connecticut have dropped twenty percent in the two years since IDs were distributed, in part because immigrants were more willing to report issues to the police when they had identification. Many other large cities have been issuing IDs to immigrants for years, including San Francisco, Oakland and Washington D.C. The immigrants of these cities have benefited greatly from these programs, and it’s been of little cost to the municipalities. For example, some of these model cities attached fees to the IDs to offset costs. However, none of these charges exceeded ten dollars per ID card. So in reality, there is very little downside to New York City to implementing this policy. They will simply be the biggest stage for this reform since Los Angeles voted to mimic Oakland’s system in 2012.
But what new freedoms would granting IDs give to undocumented residents? The main target of New York’s policy is to help immigrant citizens to lead more normal lives and make them more economically stable. Undocumented citizens would be enabled to open bank accounts, sign housing leases, access libraries and other services that require identification. The main point of unease among some, however, is that these IDs would technically grant illegal immigrants access to healthcare centers. This could be a potential drag on our country financially, but that remains to be seen. These kind of rights for immigrants already exist in cities like San Francisco and Oakland, and not much discourse has arisen there.
Why shouldn’t immigrants be allowed access to healthcare? Illegal immigrants are more important than most people care to acknowledge. They play a vital role in our economy, especially in states like California and Texas. There are nearly a half-million in New York City alone. They do pose a large financial burden on us when it comes to healthcare, but are we honestly going to turn away people in need of medical attention just because of where they come from? Many immigrants pay taxes like the rest of us, and therefore deserve as fair of treatment as anybody.
Our country flourished because of its diversity and practically every American family were immigrants at some point. Half of my ancestors didn’t even get here until the 1940s. Our country’s wealth is the result of immigrants coming together, and New York City is the crown jewel of this example. In his address promoting the new ID policy, DeBlasio was quoted as saying, “To all of my fellow New Yorkers who are undocumented, I say: New York City is your home too, and we will not force ANY of our residents to live their lives in the shadows.” DeBlasio clearly recognizes the role immigrants play in New York’s community, and in our nation. I think he knows what he’s getting into.
While some people may be opposed to allowing illegal immigrants healthcare, aside from this issue, issuing undocumented citizens ID cards is a very positive step forward for New York City, and will be of ample benefit to the community. Remember that this policy has been implemented successfully in numerous cities across the nation, including our nation’s capital. The adoption of such a policy in our nation’s largest city will be a great example to the rest of us to treat everyone equally and give them an even chance to live a normal, successful life in our land of opportunity. We can all stand to learn from this landmark event.
Sean Kennedy is an undeclared freshman whose grandfather hailed from Sarnia, Ontario Canada. Love and hate can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Congress has failed in being proactive – it’s about time the Big Apple steps up
Becoming economically stable and leading consistent lives are basic human rights
Benefits to the community outnumber potential roadblocks on this issue