Rochester moving forward on municipal IDs

19 April 2022

ROCHESTER — The city of Rochester plans to issue municipal identification cards to help disadvantaged people in the community.

Under the city’s proposal, the Rochester Public Library would issue IDs to residents who could provide documents proving their identity and residence within the city. The process would take about 20 minutes and there would be no fee to get an ID. Rochester Administrator Alison Zelms said the city would collect and store as little data from residents as possible.

Dozens of cities across the U.S. have adopted municipal IDs to help undocumented immigrants, refugees and residents who otherwise can’t get access to state IDs. New Haven, Conn., was the first U.S. city to use IDs starting in 2007, while Northfield is the first Minnesota city to issue them starting last year.

Minneapolis has explored the issue but ultimately shelved its proposal in 2020 over concerns federal immigration officials could use its data to identify and deport undocumented immigrants.

Rochester officials have discussed issuing IDs since 2019 when advocates with the Southeastern Minnesota Interfaith Immigrant Legal Defense urged the city to adopt an ordinance. Proponents say the IDs allow people better access to pharmacies, cashing checks and other services. Critics say the concept is a runaround against stricter law enforcement efforts to deport undocumented residents.

The Rochester City Council will review the proposed ordinance at its upcoming meetings and could adopt municipal IDs by the end of June.

Andrew Stehr, circulation services manager at the library, told the council Monday a municipal ID could help marginalized people in the area better connect to local services. The city received positive feedback from various nonprofits, banks, pharmacies and even Rochester Public Schools for the idea, all of whom said they would accept a community ID in some fashion.

“This hits a lot of our diversity, equity, inclusion goals,” Stehr said.

City officials hope a municipal ID could be used for school registration and in-school functions across the city, as well as arts and cultural activities, court processing and even discounts at local businesses.

Council members appear to support the plan, though some questioned how the IDs would be used. Patrick Keane said he felt the IDs would be valuable to the community, but he was concerned residents outside the city could apply for a municipal ID. Stehr said Rochester’s ID process prohibits that.

Municipal IDs can’t be used to buy age-restricted products, and other cities issuing their own IDs say counterfeiting isn’t a problem since the IDs aren’t widely accepted.

Council President Brook Carlson said she was concerned a municipal ID wouldn’t be widely used, which could stigmatize residents who have one.

“That’s certainly the hope, from my perspective, if we can get it as widely used as possible.”

This post was originally published on this site

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