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Richmond Looks to Create City ID Cards for Residents

City would be the first in Contra Costa County to issue the cards, intended to promote civic engagement among immigrants

Richmond appears on its way to becoming the first city in Contra Costa County to issue its own municipal identification cards, which will be available to all local residents.

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to direct staff to iron out the details of the identification cards, which will be available for a small fee to anyone residing in the city, regardless of legal status. According to city reports, the new cards may be used by immigrants for banking and accessing city services, providing information to police, and acting as a debit card for a still undetermined fee.

City leaders made clear that the cards were in part seen as a way to assuage fears and encourage civic engagement by the city’s sizable immigrant community, many of whom are undocumented and in the U.S. illegally, which prevents them from obtaining other forms of identification.

“The cards will help [immigrants] feel more comfortable in reaching out to the police,” said Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, who moments later said the cards will send a clear message that “Richmond welcomes our immigrant communities.”

The measure, proposed by McLaughlin and Councilmember Jovanka Beckles, directs staff to draft a local ordinance and prepare it for review and a vote by the City Council on July 5.

Although Richmond would be the first city in Contra Costa County to recognize a municipal ID, the move is not unprecedented in the Bay Area or the nation. According to backup documents prepared by the city, San Francisco, Oakland, New Haven, Trenton and Washington, D.C., have all approved municipal identification card programs since 2007.

More than 100 people gathered in the Civic Center courtyard before the meeting to rally for support for resolution, and dozens packed the chambers when the council convened.

Proponents argued that cards will help bring the city’s undocumented community – which may number in the thousands – out of the shadows. Several supporters said during public comment periods that children and parents struggle to access basic resources like primary health care and library services without valid identification.

“This is a necessary step to make sure all residents have access to equal services,” said Eduardo Martinez, a local schoolteacher.

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