KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The ACLU and several other KCK organizations are urging the Unified Government to adopt a municipal ID program.
The county commission talked about a program a year ago, but a change in leadership halted anything from going forward.
“ID is really critical to the way we go about our daily lives,” said Micah Kubic, Executive Director of the ACLU of Kansas.
Last week it held a meeting for the public to kick off its Safe & Welcoming Wyandotte campaign at El Centro.
Kubic said they thought the program could do a lot of good because of how diverse Wyandotte is. It’s one of the most diverse counties in the country.
Advocates said around 30,000 people in Wyandotte are living without any photo identification.
“Senior citizens, foster youth, folks returning to the community who don’t have easy access to an ID. What does that do? That shuts them out of community life,” Kubic said.
A municipal ID is not the same as a driver's license, nor would it give you the right to vote. It could not be used to board a plane or get into federal buildings.
“It does give you that basic threshold of being able to get a prescription, and enroll your kid in school, go and see the doctor and get healthcare access, perhaps open a bank account,” said Kubic.
Dozens of other cities in the U.S. have adopted municipal ID programs. Chicago officials issued 500 IDs the first day of its program and have seen an overwhelming demand. Little Rock, Arkansas just kicked its program off. New York City is looking to connect its municipal IDs to payment chips to act as a debit card of sorts. Some IDs are linked to library cards.
“I can imagine the struggle just to get basic everyday things done,” said Rosa Macias with Bethel Neighborhood Center in KCK.
Bethel Neighborhood Center serves a diverse number of people who may benefit from a municipal card, Macias said.
“We do have the homeless population come in as well and they’re like, they lost it for whatever reason or don’t have the money to go out and get that ID,” Macias said.
Bethel serves many immigrant families who are often nervous to produce any type of identification at its food pantry, although Bethel said they’ll help anyone who comes in the door.
Macias said she knows of other food pantries who have strict rules on identification, and maybe a municipal ID would give families some confidence when seeking help from different sources.
KCK Police Chief Terry Zeigler said municipal ID's would help his officers be reasonably certain of who they are interacting with. He also said he'd like to see a thumbprint to help reduce fraud.
The UG said there are a number of issues to consider. Because immigrants could get a municipal ID, the UG would need to look at how they would store applicants' information and they wouldn't want to put anyone at risk.
The UG said they'd need to budget for such a program and look at how much printing and issuing the cards would cost. They're not sure of the numbers at this point.