Woodstock may be the first small town in the state to issue municipal identification cards, making it easier for undocumented immigrants and others without paperwork to conduct town and other routine business.
The Muni ID will be available to all regardless of sexual orientation, immigration status, age, race or gender identification, should the town board adopt it after public readings and a hearing, Human Rights Commission Chair Anula Courtis told the board at its August 20 business meeting.
“We’re not trying to mandate this card. We want people to want the card,” Courtis said, suggesting possible discounts at local businesses for showing the card, as is the case in other communities.
The Muni ID is most valuable to the vulnerable members of the population, such as the homeless, very old, very young, transgendered and immigrants, she said.
Courtis said identification is also important when a person is taken to the emergency room. “We feel that they should have a name. Not Jane Doe or John Doe,” she said.
Any federal, state, town or county ID will serve as proof of identity. Proof of Woodstock residency can include a utility bill or copy of a lease. Those that are homeless can be identified through a notarized letter from social services, a church, law enforcement officer or other town official.
Courtis suggested designated hours two days a week in the Town Clerk’s office for handling Muni ID applications so the office isn’t overburdened. She recommended one evening or weekend day per month in the beginning to accommodate people’s work schedules. Town Clerk Jackie Earley agreed.
The machine to print a laminate for the cards can cost $2000-$3000, though some communities have obtained machines for less, Courtis said.
Cities including New York, Kingston, Poughkeepsie, Beacon and Middletown have adopted municipal ID laws, all with few hitches. Woodstock could be the first small town to offer the ID cards. The town Human Rights Commission had proposed the Muni ID in February and the Town Board suggested tweaks and changes.
To keep information from the prying eyes of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or other agencies, the town will only hold the name and card number. It will not retain any documents used in the application for the card.
This form of identification can be used to obtain a library card and the schools have agreed to accept it. Some banks have accepted it as identification to cash checks and are considering it for opening accounts.
Documentation requirements for the Muni ID are much less onerous than obtaining a non-driver ID from the DMV, said Human Rights Committee Vice Chair Salvadore Altamirano-Segura. A social security card or passport is required for the latter. Even for those who have those documents, a trip to Kingston and the time spent at the DMV is a huge barrier for some.
The recently passed Green Light NY law allows undocumented immigrants to obtain driver licenses, but it doesn’t take effect until December and already faces legal challenges, he explained.
Pay it forward
The Muni ID will be good for four years and the suggested charge is $5-10. There will be no charge for those who cannot afford it. Waiving fees requires Town Board approval on a case-by-case basis, but rather than force an applicant to wait, Councilman Reggie Earls suggested allowing those who wanted to pay $20 instead of $10 to fund a card for someone who couldn’t pay. Courtis and the board thought it was an excellent idea.
Advocacy groups Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson and Woodstock Immigrant support provided assistance in drafting the proposed law.
McKenna will forward the proposal to town attorney Rod Futerfas for review. After that, the board will schedule the required public readings and public hearing before voting to make it a local law.
Policing policy changes in the works
The Human Rights Commission also completed changes to a policing policy first adopted in 2017. The policy codifies equitable treatment of all people in a professional manner.
Added to the policy is the prohibition against requesting information on citizenship or immigration status unless it is necessary for a criminal investigation.
The policy also requires requests for assistance from ICE, Customs and Border Patrol or any federal agency to be directed to the chief. Agencies requesting assistance must present a warrant signed by a judge naming a particular individual.
The Town Board will vote on the policy changes at a meeting in the near future. McKenna also asked the Human Rights Commission use the policing policy as a basis to draft a similar policy governing all town employees and officials.