El Paso has a plan to help some 50,000 people without any form of identification – the city wants to issue municipal IDs. Proponents say that the program will help poor, homeless and undocumented people in the community gain access to basic city services, and improve public safety. But Gov. Greg Abbott says this amounts to sanctuary city policies, and has vowed to put an end to it.
A showdown between local and state control may be brewing out west. Julian Aguilar, a reporter for the Texas Tribune, says that similar programs have been considered in other cities, like New York and San Francisco. The card would give access to libraries and other public facilities, and also prevent crime.
“This gives folks that don’t have another form of ID an opportunity to get something that’s legit and recognized by at least one governmental entity, and that would be the city,” Aguilar says. “One example they said, if you’re walking down the street and a cop asks you who you are, and for whatever reason and you don’t have an ID you could possibly face a misdemeanor – failure to identify. This would alleviate that.”
Opponents say that the IDs would turn El Paso into a “sanctuary city.” But those in favor of the project argue that it will bring people “out of the shadows” rather than hiding because they don’t have proper identification. They emphasize that the ID couldn’t be used at TSA checkpoints or at the polls. And, they say, it won’t protect people from prosecution.
“If you commit a crime, you’re still going to be charged with a crime,” Aguilar says. “If you have a municipal ID or a passport in El Paso, you’re going to be arrested, you’re going to be run through the system, you’re gonna be fingerprinted the way everyone else would. And that sort of takes care of the immigration enforcement aspect of it.”
Aguilar says that the El Paso County Commissioner David Stout isn’t pleased with Abbot’s involvement in the issue. He called Abbot out for suing the federal government for overreach then turning around and getting involved in city affairs.
“I think its going to spiral into an issue thats going to be brought up at the capitol next year,” Aguilar says.
Despite pushback from some and concerns about being considered a sanctuary city, officials in El Paso county are planning to move ahead with the project. County commissioners have voted 4-1 in favor of the new IDs and are considering the costs of the program.
“The county commissioner says he wants to have a cost analysis by the end of next month just so they can set aside this money. But I think there is momentum,” Aguilar says. “The majority of the elected officials seem to be behind this idea.”