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Detroiters could get city IDs this year

Jul 31, 2015

Some of Detroit's city council members and local activists say they want the city to offer municipal IDs.
Credit Kate Wells

Detroiters could be able to get a city-issued ID card later this year.

That could help homeless people, senior citizens, undocumented immigrants – anybody who may not be able to provide a birth certificate or Social Security card.

City councilwoman Raquel Castañeda-Lopez says they don’t have exact numbers on how many Detroiters may not have photo IDs, but she points to a national survey that found 25% of African-American adults may not have current, government-issued IDs.

And she says in cities that already offer municipal IDs, police are able to use them to build better community relations.

“Because then if you get pulled over or you're walking down the street, and you may not have ID because you're homeless or a young person, this gives you a form of ID to then be able to show to them."

Castañeda-Lopez also says these ID programs let applicants use school and prison documents to prove their identity, and they can claim homeless shelters as their permanent residence.

Washtenaw County started offering a similar ID program this summer.

Keta Cowan heads up the Washtenaw ID Task Force, and she says they’ve already given out 800 county IDs since June.  

“People talk about wanting to move because they live in substandard conditions, but they're unable to access housing without an ID and they've been able to do it with the ID card.”

Cowan says people getting the cards need a way to identify themselves to law enforcement.

"Because you can be detained. And that's a dangerous thing to have happen to you, particularly to folks who may be subject to profiling," she said.

The Detroit City Council will start talking with law enforcement, banks, libraries, and transportation companies to see if they'd accept the IDs.