The archdiocese of Baltimore will create its own form of identity card for members of churches, an alternative to government-issued identification that church leaders hope immigrants and others who have difficulties in obtaining identification feel safer in the city.
The mayor of Baltimore has approved the plan and the Baltimore police said it will recognize the new "parish ID" as a valid form of identification.
"No one in our city should live in fear," said Mayor Catherine Pugh (D) at a press conference on Wednesday announcing the new form of identification alongside the archbishop of Baltimore, William Lori. "The parish ID supports our efforts to build what I consider an inclusive city, which takes into account the sometimes insurmountable obstacles to establishing the identification of an official residence because, as noted, unstable housing … gender identity status of immigrant or any other obstacles. "
While some activists supporting immigrants in Baltimore worked to establish the new ID and celebrated its founding, others said the new ID had only limited efficacy compared to further reaching government efforts.
The primary purpose of the ID card that the Mayor and the Archbishop have quoted on Wednesday is to make residents of the city feel secure and contact the police if they are the victim or witness of a crime. Baltimore has already taken steps to ensure that residents do not need photo identification at all to get access to most city services, and the city and church do not know whether private institutions such as banks accept the parish ID as valid identification.
"This sanctioned by the city, approved by the church [identification] is a step towards helping many who feel marginalized, find a degree of peace of mind here in Baltimore, where they live, "said Venerable Bruce Lewandowski, who worked with the Building activist group to create the new ID. "The elderly, immigrants, so many young black men in our community, those who are vulnerable, who have no identity, become the target of people who know they will not call the police. And today we change that. "
Lori echoed him: "This ID provides a way to freedom from fear," he said. "The ID makes it more difficult for residents of some of the most vulnerable communities to become victims of crimes, violence and violence, but it happens too often."
But Liz Alex, director of organizing at the immigrant group Casa de Maryland, said that an ID issued by the government would be much more valuable for undocumented immigrants than a card issued by the church. Immigrants already have access to non-governmental IDs, she said; Casa himself gives a "membership card" that some immigrants use for the same purpose.
Some would even worry about signing up for a non-governmental identity card, fearing that agents of immigration and customs services (ICE) would somehow turn to the pool of people for parish ID & # 39; s were registered as targets for deportation, Alex said.
In many cities, from New York to San Francisco, city governments issue IDs directly to residents who may not be able to obtain a driver's license. Baltimore has passed a law that would make it possible to do the same, but has not yet rolled out the ID cards.
What we really need is the municipal identity card, & # 39; said Alex. "I only hope that our mayor and our councilors do not accept this as a replacement for what we really need and what we have already passed."
Many schools need government-issued government proof of identity to enter the building, Alex said, and banks need a government-issued ID to open an account.
She thinks that the ID of the parish could shorten the false arrests, if someone is arrested because he looks like a suspect and can not verify his identity, but does not necessarily increase confidence in the police.
"It's more about what they do and less about the card," she said. "Because it gets familiar with the word, once your person has a successful interaction with a policeman, that's the best advertisement ever.As soon as you have a bad interaction – someone is arrested because they have no identity card, someone is reported to immigration enforcement – that will be your worst nightmare. & # 39;
Like many other cities, Baltimore has a long-standing habit of avoiding enforcement of immigration in general, and the Baltimore police generally do not seek to inform about the immigration status of suspects or witnesses.
The identity card of the parish would be clearly marked as "no government-issued ID," Lewandowski said. The card would have the name and address of the parish church that it had issued to the parishioner, along with the photo of the cardholder and an ID number issued by the church.
The Baltimore Sun reported that in order to be eligible, a cardholder must be a member of a parish for at least three months and provide other identifying documentation, as well as a witness who can verify his or her identity.
The requirement for church membership limits the card to Catholics. Although Pugh called gender identity as a reason why some people have difficulty getting ID, Monica Stevens, the outreach coordinator of the Baltimore Transgender Alliance, said she is not sure if many transgender people in Baltimore turn to church for this service. .
Other local organizations offer free legal aid for transgender people seeking an ID that matches their gender identity, she said, and many transgender people feel uncomfortable in a church that teaches that the gender that a person receives at birth is unchangeable.
"You should be a transgender member of the Catholic Church to get a name change by the Catholic Church, which could be interesting, that would be true," Stevens said. "I personally, if I had to join a church to change my name, my name would probably not have changed today."
But Pugh said the effort to train police and other city workers to recognize the identity of the parish would be worthwhile if the new maps were valuable to even a small number of Baltimore residents. "If this identification helps someone pick up the phone and call the police, it has done what it should do," she said to applaud.