Legal resident or not, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to a city ordinance offering municipal identification cards to anyone who can prove they reside in the city.
The proposal passed the first of two required votes, placing San Francisco, with a population of 725,000, on track to become the largest city in the nation to issue identification cards to anyone who requests one and proves residence.
In June, New Haven, Conn., passed a similar measure, believed to be the first in the nation. Since then, several other cities, including New York, have considered the idea.
Supporters in San Francisco said the ordinance was intended to make life easier for the large number of illegal immigrants working in the city, many of whom cannot get access to services because they have no formal identification. The city already has a "sanctuary" policy forbidding local law enforcement or other officials to assist with immigration enforcement.
"I think it's admitting the reality of the situation that we depend on, our tourist and hotel industry depends on, a labor force that's supplied by, for lack of a better term, undocumented residents," said Tom Ammiano, the supervisor who sponsored the bill. Ammiano described the measure as "a passport of sorts," to "take the kid to the library or open a bank account, or report a crime without being deported."
Supporters and opponents of such measures said states and cities were more likely to take up issues like this one since Congress rejected a comprehensive immigration bill this year.
Supporters of the ordinance say it has more practical effects, including crime prevention. John Trasvina, the president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund in Los Angeles, said he had recently received several reports of so-called SOM, or Sock on Mexican, attacks in the Los Angeles area, crimes he hoped might be reduced if victims came forward.
Ammiano said the card would also be useful to other groups without government-issued identification, including the elderly, students and transgendered people, who have long found a sympathetic home here.