New Brunswick to Vote on Municipal ID Program Tonight

Credits: New Brunswick City Hall

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — The city’s long-awaited municipal identification program could go online by September if all goes as planned.

The New Brunswick City Council expects to vote on an ordinance that would establish the program during its 5:30 p.m. meeting tonight, June 7, in City Hall. The move would make city identification cards available to anyone living in New Brunswick, including homeless people and undocumented immigrants.

Activists have long pushed for the creation of a city ID program, saying it would help disenfranchised individuals make use of municipal services. City officials, meanwhile, have spent much time researching and designing the initiative.

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“We think it’s a great step toward making New Brunswick a more fair and welcoming city for everyone,” Cecille de Laurentis, of the advocacy group Food and Water Watch, said last month, when the ordinance was introduced.

The ordinance would require all city agencies to accept the municipal ID cards “as proof of identity and residence for access to city services and benefits,” according to the document. That’s unless the act would violate state or federal law, or the agency suspects fraud.

In order to obtain a city ID card, applicants would need to submit any number of documents to prove both their identity and residency, according to the ordinance. The city’s library—the agency that would oversee the program—plans to implement a point system to score each document.

Acceptable documents include a range of ID cards issued by the U.S. and New Jersey. What’s more, a number of IDs or documents from foreign countries would also work, according to the ordinance.

The ordinance also provides a path for homeless people and victims of domestic violence who live in the city to obtain an ID card. An organization through which an applicant receives services would need to provide a letter showing that it has provided care to the person for at least 15 days, according to the ordinance.

Residents would need to be at least 14 years old to qualify or a municipal ID card, according to the document.

Each applicant’s personal information would be kept confidential, barring a court order, according to the ordinance. In the document, city officials stressed the need to “make best efforts to protect the confidentiality” of applicants.

New Brunswick officials noted that the validation process would likely take one visit.

“You go home with an ID,” city attorney T.K. Shamy said. “That’s the intention of the program.”

Each New Brunswick ID card would be valid for two years and include the resident’s name, head shot, address and date of birth, along with issuance and expiration dates, according to the city.

In an effort to deter fraud, security measures, such as bar codes, serial numbers and watermarks, might also appear on the cards, according to the ordinance.

A card would cost $20 for adults and $7 for kids, veterans, people with disabilities and senior citizens, according to the document.

Residents who meet at least one of several criteria could receive a “hardship exception waiver,” the ordinance states. That would apply to homeless people, domestic violence victims, people who receive government benefits and those with a household income that’s no more than 15 percent of the federal poverty level, according to the proposal.

Teresa Vivar, a resident and advocate for New Brunswick’s immigrant community, praised the proposed city ID program.

“It was important for us,” she said, adding that the city should pursue additional ways to inform and seek input from its immigrant population.

Hardware for the initiative would be funded by the capital program, City Administrator Thomas Loughlin III said. Existing library staffers would handle daily operations, he said.

The ordinance would go into effect less than a month after its adoption. New Brunswick officials said the program would go live by September or earlier.

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