As President Donald Trump promises a crackdown on immigrants living here illegally, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pressing ahead with a municipal ID plan, a concept that’s drawn fire from both sides of the issue.

Some immigrant allies worry federal agents could use applicants’ personal information from such a program to deport undocumented immigrants, while critics say the IDs constitute a national security risk.

Experiences in two other big cities could prove instructive to Chicago. A lawsuit challenging New York’s ID program shows the potential pitfalls as cities try to balance personal safety and security, while San Francisco provides a path forward that immigrant advocates could embrace but likely wouldn’t appease those who say card applicants should face tougher screenings.

Emanuel has backed the identification program as a step to give Chicagoans who don’t have driver’s licenses or Social Security numbers a way to prove who they are so they can pay bills, make police reports or gain access to public buildings.

Offering such an ID also allows Emanuel to plant a high-profile flag in his campaign to position himself in opposition to Trump as a defender of immigrants’ rights and Chicago as a safe haven for those living here without legal permission.

The mayor’s handpicked city clerk, Anna Valencia, is heading up the ID initiative. Valencia’s office insists applicants’ information will be secure and those who apply will be properly vetted, though Valencia has offered no specifics on how the city will achieve those goals or when the program will launch. She declined to be interviewed.

“We have strongly recommended to the city that they keep information gathering to a minimum and that they not keep supporting documents,” he said.

LeFurgy said the city is attempting to “strike the right balance of making it secure and accessible.”

“We are working very closely with immigrant organizations, community groups and advocates to address the concerns of the people they serve,” LeFurgy added. “We are exploring ways to make the IDs accessible in neighborhoods through partnerships with community groups.”

San Francisco plan

San Francisco’s ID program may provide a template Chicago immigrant groups could support.

Since 2009, the California city has issued cards to about 30,000 people, according to San Francisco County Clerk Catherine Stefani, whose office administers the program. To get one, residents have to schedule in-person appointments at City Hall and prove their identities by showing a U.S. or foreign passport, a government-issued visa, a foreign or U.S. driver’s license or a combination of other documents.


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