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Illegal immigrants in L.A. could get library ID cards

September 11, 2012 |  8:37 am

San Francisco ID cardThe Los Angeles Public Library card could one day become a form of identification for the city's large illegal immigrant population that would allow them to open bank accounts and access services.

The City Council unanimously voted recently to consider the proposal, which would have Los Angeles join the growing number of cities across the nation that offer various forms of identification to undocumented workers and others who cannot get driver's licenses because of their immigration status.

Though L.A.'s plan would not be as sweeping as those adopted by cities like San Francisco, Oakland and Richmond, it would be a major step in serving the estimated 300,000 residents who don't have bank accounts or debit cards.

Talk Back: Should L.A. give library ID cards to illegal immigrants?

The ID card would include a user's name, address and a photograph, and would be issued through the city's libraries. The city would partner with a private vendor to set up bank accounts for those who want to use the library ID as a debit card. Banks generally require official identification to open an account.

But anyone able to provide proof of L.A. residency would be eligible for the library card, said Councilman Richard Alarcon, who proposed the concept. Banking services would include direct deposit, international and domestic money transfers and debiting.

Alarcon said that in his Northeast Valley district, some immigrants who don't use banks end up being gouged by payday lenders or robbed if they keep large sums of cash on hand.

"They can be scammed and taken advantage of," Alarcon said. "This will help end that."

The cards would not be a substitute for drivers' licenses and would not provide any protection from deportation by federal immigration authorities. And they would come with a cost.

Applicants would pay a fee, around $15 to $20, for the card, and then would be able to deposit and withdraw money through a network of ATMs at local grocery stores and shopping malls.

There could also be a monthly free of up to $2.99. The plan is likely to face opposition, as it has in other cities. Ira Mehlman, communications director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said ID cards can easily be exploited by terrorists and criminals and encourage illegal immigration.

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Talk Back: Should L.A. give library ID cards to illegal immigrants?

-- Catherine Saillant

Photo: A sample San Francisco city identification card. Credit: sfgov.org

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