Editorial: Community ID comes to Johnson County


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The concept of an ID card specific to this community is one that has floated around in Johnson County for a while. Iowa City officials have discussed offering an ID for the area since last year, but on Thursday, these talks came to fruition when the Johnson County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to implement a Community ID Program.

Often called a city identification card, a community ID would serve as valid identification for those who don’t have access to a standard driver’s license or state IDs, such as the homeless, elderly people who don’t drive, the poor, those displaced by domestic violence or natural disaster, and even undocumented immigrants.

In an image tweeted out by the supervisors’ Twitter account, around 100 people gathered on the first floor of the Johnson County Administration Building before the supervisors’ meeting, many holding signs reading “Yes! Community ID!” and “Yes! Identify me!”

It may seem strange to some that, in an era in which concerns over privacy and government overreach are dominant, these people are clamoring to be identified. Yet the benefits of a community ID can be vital to this population.

Things as simple as opening a bank account, cashing a paycheck, buying medicine to treat illness, renting an apartment, or getting a library card all require IDs. The community ID would serve as an alternative for those without IDs to be able to experience the same services that everyone else does.
By approving this program, brought to the table by the Iowa City Human Rights Commission and the Ad Hoc Diversity Committee last year, Johnson County will be the first to implement a community ID in the Midwest.

The details of the card have been hammered out. They will cost $8 to obtain and expire in eight years (the price tag for printing the IDs will ideally be covered by their cost; several hundred people have already signed up). They cannot be used to purchase firearms, tobacco, or alcohol. Johnson County residents will need to provide proof of their address in order to receive a community ID.

Other cities have adopted city identification cards, such as New Haven, Connecticut, which became the first city in the country to do so nearly eight years ago. Under federal law, cities can issue identification cards as they see fit, disregarding the immigration or criminal status of an applicant.

With 10,000 to 15,000 illegal immigrants in the city, New Haven caught a lot of flak for its program, and that made other municipalities considering the card to hesitate. But in 2009, San Francisco issued a city identification card, followed by New York City in 2010.

By approving the community ID, the supervisors have placed Johnson County in good company. With all the benefits that come along with a community ID, the Daily Iowan Editorial Board believes this is the kind of forward-looking leadership that deserves to be applauded.

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