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

September 11, 2012 |  8:07 am

Library ID
Illegal immigrants in Los Angeles may be able to turn their library cards into a form of identification that could be used to open bank accounts and access other city services.

A story Tuesday by Times City Hall reporter Catherine Saillant notes that the City Council is considering a plan that would be a major step in serving the estimated 300,000 residents who don't have bank accounts or debit cards. Other cities, such as San Francisco, Oakland and Richmond, offer similar -– but more sweeping -– programs. San Francisco's City ID card, for example, is accepted as a form of identification by most city banks, airlines and local businesses.

Talk back LAThe 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.

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.

"Cities should not be in the business of making it easier for people to violate federal law even if they don't pose a security risk," he said.

What do you think of this plan? Should Los Angeles consider offering library cards that serve as identification cards? Tell us what you think.


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