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SEATTLE (Reuters) - Seattle lawmakers were considering on Wednesday the creation of a city identification card available to immigrants living in the United States illegally, following the lead of other major U.S. cities including New York and San Francisco.
Seattle City Council member Bruce Harrell said the ID program would be voluntary and would simplify the process for allowing immigrants, refugees and the homeless to obtain identification and access services like bank accounts, utilities and libraries.
“A municipal ID card can provide a much more affordable and easier pathway for residents from diverse communities to succeed and more efficiently access critical services,” he said in a statement.
Harrell was discussing the nascent plan with other city officials, including Mayor Ed Murray and representatives of the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs.
The Seattle proposal comes as the United States is grappling with an influx of child migrants from Central America that is overwhelming U.S. immigration resources and reigniting a contentious debate over how to handle the estimated 11 million immigrants already living illegally in the United States.
Murray, a Democrat, said on Tuesday he was skeptical that Seattle needed the cards in a state that allows its residents to obtain a driver’s license regardless of their immigration status.
“What is the purpose? If this is a purpose for identification, the process already exists through the department of licensing at the state level,” Murray said. “And what is going to happen with that data and how is that data going to be protected?”
A spokesman from Harrell’s office said lawmakers were weighing the pros and cons for Seattle residents, where about 19 percent of the population is foreign born, and were not modeling it on other cities’ programs.
Last week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, signed into law what will become the nation’s largest municipal ID program to include illegal immigrants. De Blasio said the program, expected to take effect in 2015, will bring the city’s 500,000 undocumented workers out of the shadows.
Municipal identification programs available to illegal immigrants have also been approved in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New Haven, Connecticut.
Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Beech