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Los Angeles City Council approves ID & debit cards for undocumented immigrants

A current City of Los Angeles library card.
A current City of Los Angeles library card.
Jose Luis Jiménez

The Los Angeles City Council has approved a plan to create a library card that also acts as an identification and a pre-paid debit card designed to help undocumented immigrants.

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. It will also be a pre-paid debit card that allows residents to build credit. 

Whether law enforcement agencies will accept the ID remains unknown. Distribution is expected to begin early next year.

The council voted 12 to 1 on Wednesday to select a vendor to develop and administer the identity card program.

The new ID is intended to help about 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 will back the proposed ID card, and the funds will be FDIC insured.

Councilman Richard Alarcon said the cards are necessary because the federal government has failed to make significant reforms in immigration policy and it's undeniable that businesses and individuals are hiring illegal immigrants.

The lone "no" vote on Wednesday was cast by Republican Councilman Mitch Englander, who said the city is in too tough of a financial bind to take on a new program.

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