Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Los Angeles' library cards could double as identification, debit cards

Los Angeles City Hall

Alice Walton/KPCC

A plan to provide library cards that are also ID and pre-paid debit cards was unanimously approved by a Los Angeles City Council committee.

Undocumented residents living in the city of Los Angeles could soon have a library card that also acts as identification and a pre-paid debit card.

A Los Angeles City Council committee unanimously approved the proposal from Councilman Richard Alarcon. The ID card would include a resident’s photograph, full name, address, date of birth and details on height, weight, and hair and eye color. The card would not be a driver’s license and could not be used as an ID to board a plane. The card could also be a pre-paid debit card that allows residents to build credit. 

“[It] gives them to access to banks in a way they can trust,” Alarcon said. 

Whether law enforcement agencies would accept the ID remains unknown.

The card is intended to help the 200,000 Los Angeles households that do not have access to banking services. Those families are vulnerable to theft and financial emergencies, according to the Mayor’s Office. A financial institution would back the proposed ID card, and the funds would be FDIC insured.

“When you have an international city, a city that has an umbilical cord connected to many of the major points throughout this world ... we’re no long living in Main Street, USA,” said Councilman Ed Reyes. “There are entities in this (banking) process that take advantage of that sense of fear, that sense of assimilation and lack of awareness.”

Other cities in California provide identification cards, but only Richmond and Oakland also include a pre-paid debit feature.

If the proposal is approved by the Los Angeles City Council, city staff will contract with a third party vendor to manage the identification cards. That is expected to be done in the next three to four months. 

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