City ID program could offer options for international, undocumented students

City leaders continue to work on securing the personal data collected by the program.

by Emma Dill

Amid concerns about data security, the Minneapolis City Council pushed forward a new municipal identification program last week that could make it easier for international and undocumented students to rent an apartment, cash a check or file a police report.

The program presents a new kind of ID for Minneapolis residents who do not have the U.S. government-issued identification that is often required by banks, hospitals or landlords. Although open to any resident over 13, the program would benefit undocumented immigrants, and the Council is still determining how to keep their personal information confidential.

Ward 6 Council member Abdi Warsame said while he supports the measure, he’s concerned about keeping personal information private. Under current data practices laws, the program’s information would likely be public. Warsame said he worries making the information public will lead to immigration officials targeting immigrants who enroll in the program.

“My main point is whatever helps them, documented or undocumented immigrants, the better. But we need to make sure that we are protecting them fully and not jeopardizing their safety,” Warsame said.

Ward 2 Council member Cam Gordon said the City is working on several solutions to the data problem. One would remove addresses from the identification cards. Another would advocate for a Minnesota state law change to add municipal or local IDs to a private information category that also includes state-issued IDs and driver’s licenses, he said.

Gordon said keeping the information private is a problem the Council must tackle before implementing the ID program.

“That’s the problem we have to figure out, and it might take a state law change,” Gordon said.

Marissa Hill-Dongre, director of the University of Minnesota’s Immigration Response Team, said the new IDs could be an option for both documented and undocumented Minneapolis residents who simply want to avoid a conversation about their immigration status.

“The idea is if you present a passport or an ID from another country then, immediately, the assumption is that you must be undocumented,” she said.

The municipal ID also would present another option for international students or those living in Minneapolis on a visa, Hill-Dongre said. Many international students carry their passports with them as identification due to risk for those here on a visa.

“You could lose [your passport], it could be stolen, it could fall out of your pocket, and it’s such an important document that if they were able to get something like a municipal ID that would just be easier to carry around … then I think that would be attractive to international students,” Hill-Dongre said.

Although Minnesota state IDs are available to international students, the process is often overwhelming, Hill-Dongre said. Accessibility and a straightforward application process will determine if the municipal ID could be an alternative option for students, she said.

The City Council also hopes to partner with other City entities, including the Hennepin Public Library system and Metro Transit to make the new IDs multi-use cards.

Other major cities including New York, San Francisco and Detroit have already implemented similar programs. Northfield was the first city to do so in Minnesota.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey also allocated $200,000 toward the program in his proposed budget. The City Council will consider the program again at a meeting this Friday.