The Home Rule: Make the I-Word Stand for “Inclusion” and “Identification”

There are so many practical reasons to have an official form of identification: opening a bank account, visiting your child’s school, entering a public building, you name it. And for New Jerseyans who have a driver’s license, it’s basically a non-issue.

But the next time you’re asked for ID when you’re visiting your kid’s school to chaperone a trip or even to drop off some lunch you left at home, think what you’d have to prove if you didn’t have a driver’s license. How do you prove you’re you? Will the school secretary or security guard accept a utility bill or a copy of your lease?

Thousands of New Jerseyans face this problem daily, which is why we’re beginning to see a movement afoot where towns that are taking the lead and issuing their own IDs, supplanting the MVC (never mind getting to the MVC if you don’t drive). Roselle began issuing municipally-sanctioned ID cards to all residents last week, following Newark, Asbury Park, and even Mercer and Morris counties. It’s a policy of inclusion for all residents.

And a note to policy makers: The beautiful thing about opening access to all residents is that you’re less likely to be subjected to the zealotry du jour. You don’t even need to talk about “immigration,” well, until now.

Towns and counties that implement identification programs often partner with immigrant rights groups whose aims are to open access to society for everyone – regardless of immigration status. So while immigration policy progress stalls at the federal level, localities can address these issues at home in the simplest way possible:

Show everyone that they count, particularly as anti-immigrant sentiments continue to rise.

And while towns have sought to issue identification cards to increase governmental access for immigrant communities—including increased crime reporting—look what happens when people don’t have ID: they can’t get emergency access to the hospital, they can’t open a bank account, a prospective landlord won’t let them sign a lease. In some states, you can’t even vote.

Talk to organizations like Casa Freehold, the Latin American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Make the Road NJ or Angels for Action. They’ll tell you that while community identification programs are by no means a solution to the policy issues that plague immigrants, seniors and other marginalized populations, that it’s an action toward inclusion.

In New Jersey, that action can start at home.

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