Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday a plan to help up to 500,000 undocumented New Yorkers gain access to some basic services they can't currently get: a municipal ID card available to every New Yorker, regardless of immigration status. NY1's Arlene Borenstein filed the following report.
Maria Chavez, 22, is a nursing student and volunteer for the immigrant rights group Make the Road. She immigrated from Ecuador when she was about 10. Over the years, she and her family have struggled for not being able to provide proper identification.
"My mom sometimes would have to work and get paid cash," Chavez said. "She couldn't open a bank account at that time because she didn't have an ID," Chavez said.
Chavez is now documented and has a worker's permit thanks to a federal program for immigrants who were brought here as children and meet certain other requirements, but she said that she and other members of her family know all too well the personal struggle of not having proof of identity.
"You're no one," she said. "You feel like you're no one."
Chavez, though, is hopeful following Mayor Bill de Blasio's State of the City announcement. During the speech, the mayor proposed municipal identification cards for all New Yorkers, including the hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants here, to help them open bank accounts, lease apartments and even file police reports.
According to the New York Immigration Coalition, the measure is still being drafted, but if passed, they say it will improve this community's day-to-day lives.
"You can go to the police and you can show this as proof of identification," said Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. "You can be able to access certain city buildings. As a result of our advocacy, you can now go into public schools and be able to meet with your kids' teachers."
The mayor's proposal was greeted with applause, and many council members told NY1 that they are in favor. Others, though, said that they have their reservations, at least for now.
"It sounds to me like something that I'd be supportive of if it's relegated to things like trying to get bank accounts and trying to ensure that people have better opportunity of the overall city dream," said City Councilman Vincent Ignizio of Staten Island. "Where I take issue with is that this is a backdoor way of moving the ball on municipal undocumented folks voting in municipal elections.
Chavez said that having a proper ID means only that her family will have access to the basic services they've worked so hard for.