Kingston begins issuing its own ID cards

City Clerk Elisa Tinti makes a municipal ID for Gloria Coache of Kingston. (Photo by Phyllis McCabe)

City officials chose a multicultural festival and a Midtown community center to roll out a new initiative to provide Kingston-specific ID cards to people, including undocumented immigrants, who might not otherwise have access to identity documents they need for routine transactions like getting a library card or enrolling their children in a summer recreation program.

The Kingston municipal ID card is available to any city resident over the age of 14. The cards, which are issued by the City Clerk’s Office, cost $10 for adults and $5 for veterans, children under the age of 18 and senior citizens.

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The ID cards were authorized by a Common Council resolution in December following a push by immigration advocates to institute the program in a number of Mid-Hudson cities including Middletown, Poughkeepsie and Newburgh. The local efforts began after a campaign to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain state-issued driver’s licenses and other forms of ID stalled in Albany. Currently, New York City, Middletown and Kingston are the only cities in the state issuing their own ID cards.

The cards do not allow holders to register to vote, obtain government benefits or enter facilities that require state or federal identification. But they will be accepted as valid for all city services. Proponents also hope that they will enable holders to do things like open accounts at local banks or write checks to area businesses. The cards require some documentation, like utility bills or foreign ID cards, but not the birth certificates, Social Security cards and other documents that supporters say pose a challenge to wide array of groups including the elderly, the very young and the poor. City officials have also touted the program as a benefit to public safety that would encourage people who might otherwise be reluctant to engage with police to report crimes.

“In addition to promoting a sense of unity and connectedness among all of our residents, this program will ensure that our most vulnerable neighbors have the identification they need to perform the most basic functions that many of us take for granted,” said Mayor Steve Noble in a statement announcing the rollout.

Not everyone’s on board

But the municipal ID program has also faced criticism from people who say that it would make Kingston a safe haven for undocumented immigrants and potentially enable fraud. Joe DiFalco is running for Common Council in Ward 3 against council Majority Leader Rennie Scott-Childress who introduced the municipal ID law.

“We’re adding another layer of government, because the [County] Clerk’s Office offers non-driver IDs to people who have the documents,” said DiFalco. “So why are they doing this?” 

City spokeswoman Summer Smith said that 65 ID cards were issued at the Kingston Multicultural Festival held on June 2 at the Andy Murphy Neighborhood Center. Smith added that a “steady stream” of people had been coming to City Hall seeking the documents. As of Wednesday afternoon, a total of 110 cards had been issued according to the City Clerk’s office.

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