Newark officials kick off municipal ID program – by Vernal Coleman

After six-plus months of planning, officials kicked off the city’s municipal ID program at a ribbon-cutting Saturday.

In attendance were dozens of applicants, who gathered inside the lobby of the Mary Eliza Mahoney Health Center to begin the process of obtaining the photo identification card officials say will allow them to take advantage of a host of city services.  

More than access, officials said the ID program will provide the city’s documented and undocumented immigrants a sense of belonging.

“The municipal ID will allow all residents a place to call home,” said Newark Director of Health and Community Wellness Dr. Hanaa Hamdi. The program is also intended to help the recently incarcerated, senior citizens and members of the city’s homeless population who are often denied access to local shelters for lack of valid identification, Hamdi added.

Introduced by Mayor Ras Baraka in January, and passed by unanimous vote of the municipal council in May, the program is open to all residents over the age of 14. New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio also introduced a similar program, dubbed IDNYC, earlier this year.

To obtain the card, residents would need to show other forms of identification and residency, which could include utility bills, Visa cards, payment stubs or passports, among other options.

With the ID card, residents who were previously unable to open bank accounts will be able to do so, officials said. North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos Jr. said this could make immigrants less attractive robbery targets.

“We often have (immigrant) members of our community that are victims of crime,” he said. “They carry a lot of cash when they get out of work. Thanks to the partnership of a number of banks, we will now have a residents who are unable to pen bank accounts before who will be able to.”

Kevin Brown, New Jersey State Director of 32BJ SEIU, said the ID program could result in a safer Newark.

“When police are able to identify every member of the community, it’s a stronger community because there is less crime,” he said.

The program would also help Newark entrepreneurs who want to obtain a license to sell goods on street corners but can’t present proof of citizenship, according to officials.

Program director Rachel Lewis the department has since July conducted outreach to targeted communities within Newark. Over 750 residents have since signed up to receive the ID, she said.

Vernal Coleman can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @vernalcoleman. Find on Facebook.

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