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NYC Already Planning Ways to Protect Undocumented Immigrants from Trump

In response to Trump's campaign to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio suggested in a press conference that the municipal ID card database containing the personal records of more than 850,000 people—some who...

by Kimberly Lawson
Nov 16 2016, 8:59pm

Photo by Ken Cedeno via Getty

Last week, in response to Trump's promise to deport millions of undocumented immigrants living in the United States, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he'd put up "a real fight" before he'd help the Trump administration identify New Yorkers living here illegally. During a press conference a day after Donald Trump won the election, de Blasio suggested the municipal ID card database containing the personal records of more than 850,000 people—some who are living in the US illegally—could be "destroyed" by the end of the year to protect cardholders' identities.

"IDNYC is a process in which we've really respected people's privacy and confidentiality and we already said there was a process for dealing with any records that we have," de Blasio said. "We'll think now about any additional approaches we want to take."

Anyone in New York City can get a municipal ID card. The program launched in January 2015 with the goal of providing residents an official government identification to have access to city services and other amenities. According to an evaluation of the program released in August, "the card was especially designed to serve the City's most vulnerable populations, including immigrants, seniors, youth, individuals who identify as transgender or gender nonconforming, and individuals experiencing homelessness."

Read more: How to Call Your Representative About Trump

The ID card application doesn't require information detailing citizenship status; therefore, it's unclear how many cardholders are actually undocumented.

Privacy was a huge concern during the planning and roll-out of this program. In addition to including encryption and security processes, officials also mandated that cardholder photos be stored separately from other data and that documents be destroyed two years from the application date, the evaluation states.

Rosemary Boeglin, a spokesperson for the mayor's office, says a decision about record retention will be made at the end of the calendar year. "The City regularly reviews security protocols to ensure the safety and confidentiality of cardholder information," she says. "When it comes to keeping cardholder information secure and private, all options are on the table."

On Sunday evening, President-elect Trump reiterated his plan to deport undocumented immigrants. It could be anywhere from two to three million people, he said on 60 Minutes, with a focus on those with criminal records. "We're getting them out of our country," he said. "They're here illegally."

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Natalia Aristizabal is a lead organizer at Make the Road New York, an immigrant activist organization. She tells Broadly that despite the threat of harsher federal immigration policies, people shouldn't be afraid to apply for the municipal ID. In fact, she says, they should take advantage of the program and get it now. "Community members may have fears about sharing personal information, but the way the ID has been designed, that information won't be shared," she explains. "This initiative was pushed forward by community organizers and advocates who are fighting for the immigrant community, both undocumented and other immigration statuses."

"We are right there in the line of fire with them," she continues, "and we're not going to promote an identification program that is not going to be safe for them."

De Blasio isn't the only one to dig his heels into the ground about working with the federal immigration officials in this new era, despite Trump's campaign promise to cut off federal funding to sanctuary cities, or places that harbor the undocumented. Chicago's Rahm Emanuel, Seattle's Ed Murray, and Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck all have said they have no plans to change their stance on immigration enforcement.

"These are our neighbors, and we will continue to support our neighbors," Murray said last week. "We can't allow ourselves to be divided and sorted out. That's not America."