Philadelphia plan to issue municipal IDs advances

Philadelphia City Hall (WHYY, file)

Philadelphia City Hall (WHYY, file)

A stalled plan to provide Philadelphians with municipal ID cards is moving forward.

The ID cards would help residents without other government-issued identification — due to immigration status, poverty or other barriers — access city services, file a police report, visit the hospital or even open a bank account.

But one group of people — Philadelphia’s estimated 50,000 undocumented immigrants — could be vulnerable if the information they hand over is used by federal immigration authorities. Those fears became real earlier this year, as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio fought with lawmakers in his state over keeping information collected through that city’s IDNYC program private.

“That’s what we looked into. That’s what we researched, and we feel that we are in a good place to move forward,” said Miriam Enriquez, director of the city’s office of immigrant affairs, after the city released a request for proposals Tuesday for a company to manage the program.

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To bypass questions of who could look at any personal documents an applicant may use to establish an ID card recipient’s identity or residency, the city will not keep copies of those documents.

In early 2016, Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez introduced municipal ID legislation, co-sponsored by Councilwoman Helen Gym and Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., in City Council. Mayor Jim Kenney also campaigned on the program. However, it has moved slowly in light of privacy concerns.

“This [request for proposals] is an important step forward, and I am proud to share Mayor Kenney’s commitment to unlocking doors for all Philadelphians to participate in our city’s vibrant economic and civic life,” Quiñones-Sánchez wrote in a statement.

City officials said the request for proposals will also flesh out the nuts and bolts of what it would take to deliver on the policy — from which city agency would oversee it to how much it would cost taxpayers. There would be a waiver for low-income residents unable to pay any fees associated with getting a card. Applications to manage the program for the city are due Dec. 8.

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