New Haven’s ID cards for undocumented start conversation in the Twin Cities


ID cards can be used at libraries, parks, beaches and citywide services.

While the rest of the nation grapples with how to manage the undocumented immigrant population, the city of New Haven, Conn., did the unheard-of: It issued identification cards for them.

An estimated 15,000 undocumented immigrants flocked to city locations this week to obtain the new ID cards, which can be used at libraries, parks, beaches and citywide services.

New Haven officials said the idea is to bring the undocumented population out of the shadows — to put these immigrants on an equal footing with fellow residents in terms of access to public safety and banking services. Besides mentioning city residency, the card doesn’t indicate immigration status.

The rest of the city’s 100,000 residents also are urged to obtain the new ID card.

Hence, localities across the nation are taking notes. Both Minneapolis and St. Paul mayors said Thursday there are no similar plans in the Twin Cities.

But immigrant advocates who recently spoke with the local mayors said they are open to discussing solutions for identifying undocumented immigrants.

“What New Haven did is a community solution, not a top-down model,” said Gloria Contreras Edin, executive director of Centro Legale, an immigration services agency in St. Paul. “Such conversation is long overdue here.”

According to her, Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak and the police chief expressed their concern about undocumented immigrants not reporting crimes because they fear deportation.

“From a public policy standpoint, public safety should be given a priority. And that’s what New Haven recognized,” Edin said.

Undocumented immigrants can flash the New Haven ID card for police, if asked for identification.

Immigration experts believe that more localities, frustrated with the recent failure of Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration law, are taking matters into their own hands.