Immigrant Rights Group Advocates For Municipal ID In El Paso

By Mónica Ortiz Uribe
July 13, 2015
Mónica Ortiz Uribe
Members of the Border Network for Human Rights showed their support for a municipal ID program at El Paso City Hall.

An immigrant advocate group in El Paso renewed its push for a municipal ID program saying it could benefit tens of thousands of border residents.

The Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR) presented more than 10,000 signatures in support of a municipal ID to city council back in January. On Tuesday the group returned to city hall with more signatures and to denounce what they considered a lack of progress on the matter.

El Paso city manager Tommy Gonzalez said his staff was holding back to watch the progress of bill in the Texas legislature that would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for a driving permit. The bill never advanced beyond a House committee vote.

A municipal ID could be used to open a bank account, pick up a prescription, or show a police officer.

In places such as New York City, which recently implemented a municipal ID program, it has benefited undocumented immigrants, legal immigrants with a pending status change and homeless residents among others. BNHR said up to 50,000 border residents could make use of such a card.

Mónica Ortiz Uribe
El Paso City council members listen to community input regarding a municipal ID program.

"It's so hard because I can't even get a library card, I can't get medicine for my kids," said Irma Zacarias, an undocumented mother who fled violence in Mexico five years ago.

BNHR director Fernando Garcia said access to a municipal ID is necessary in the absence of federal immigration reform. The El Paso County Sheriff has said it would aide local law enforcement.

One opponent on Tuesday said implementing such a program would label El Paso as a 'sanctuary city' that is soft on illegal immigration.

A municipal ID could not be used board an airplane or vote. Cities that have approved them include Oakland, San Francisco and New Haven, Conn. A municipal ID is also under consideration in Phoenix.