Supervisors OK community ID

BY BEN MARKS | APRIL 10, 2015 5:00 AM

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Excited chatter and smiles filled the boardroom of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors on Thursday as around 100 people tried their best to cram into the tiny space.

Waving signs with such slogans as “Yes! Identify Me!,” they were there to show support for the countywide Community ID Program, which the supervisors were scheduled to vote on.

Among the attendees were Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, and Iowa City City Councilor Jim Throgmorton.

After the unanimous “Si” vote by the supervisors, the room erupted in cheers and whistles.

“I want Johnson County to be a place where everyone feels welcome,” Supervisor Rod Sullivan said in Spanish. “We are a place with a record of change, but this is in its first stage. Thank you to everyone who worked and spent lots of time on this.”

Many members of the public spoke after the vote, including members of the Center for Worker Justice, which has worked on this issue for the past two years and along the way has partnered with many other organizations such as the Iowa City Federation of Labor, the Iowa City Human Rights Commission, and the Consultation of Religious Communities.

“I feel very proud of everyone; it’s wonderful when we get together and try to do the right thing, and this is the right thing to do,” said Sergio Irund A-wan, a secretary for the Center for Worker Justice and Community ID Committee coordinator. “I feel a part of this community after this.”

The community ID, originally proposed in 2014, is designed to provide a local, official ID card to Johnson County residents who have difficulty or lack the documentation needed to obtain official, recognized forms of identification, such as state issued driver’s licenses.

Not having an official ID can create barriers to many public services, such as libraries, housing, interactions with police, or even opening a bank account.

The populations this would most benefit include low-income individuals, people who don’t drive, those newly immigrated, and senior citizens.

“More than anything, it’s so people feel included in this community or so they don’t feel segregated from this community,” Center for Worker Justice President Marcella Hurtado said. “We know that people often witness things in the community, but they’re afraid to call the authorities because they don’t have a way of properly identify themselves to report crimes if they see them or even if they’re a victim of them.”

Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert, who worked on the ID program, said the IDs may not be used to drive, get into places with age restrictions, or obtain alcohol or cigarettes.

Weipert said the IDs are estimated to cost $8 and will last eight years.

While similar programs are in place in many places in the United States Local politicians and activists met in Iowa City to discuss the Safe at Home Act., this is believed to be the first program of its kind in the Midwest.

“As an immigrant person in this country, I feel like always we are separated,” Center for Worker Justice Vice President Mazahir Salih told the supervisors. “But now I feel we are together. Like we are one community, and now I am one of you. By having an ID, you’re taking the fear out of my heart; with my ID I can go anywhere anytime. Thank you a lot.”

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