State moves to end popular immigrant identification card program

by Jeff Sykes

Supporters gathered at Faith Action International House in Greensboro.

Greensboro faith and community leaders urged legislators to reject a bill moving through the state’s General Assembly this week that puts an end to a successful identification card program that’s helped local police build better relationships with undocumented immigrants.

Even as passionate supporters of the Faith Action ID Program gathered on the steps of the non-profit’s offices on North Greene Street in Downtown Greensboro, Republicans in the state senate gathered for a vote late Monday that moved the bill one step closer to reality.House Bill 318, known as the Protect North Carolina Workers act, languished in committee since April, but was resurrected Sept. 23 when a committee substitute emerged that contained provisions of several bills lumped together. The changes include language that prohibits government and law enforcement from accepting documents as proper identification unless specifically approved by the General Assembly.The state senate passed the committee substitute by a 28-17 vote. The bill now moves back to the house where a vote is scheduled for Tuesday.Rev. David Fraccaro, executive director of Faith Action International House, said the ID program began three years ago “as a concrete way to build greater understanding, trust and cooperation” between the city’s diverse immigrant population and local police and government agencies.Fraccaro said community groups worked with the city and local police for more than a year to develop the ID program, which has issued cards to more than 3,000 people in Greensboro and nearby Alamance County.The problem the Faith Action ID addresses is simple: bridging the gap between undocumented immigrants and others in the community who can’t access a state-issued identification card and police procedure that requires an officer to arrest someone if they cannot positively prove their identity.Fraccaro and others said the card is of value to the homeless and many of the community’s poorest residents who can’t afford a DMV identification.The program’s success in Greensboro led city officials to allow the card to be used to apply for city utilities and library cards.But it’s the reality of police work at the back end of this country’s broken immigration system that most highlights the card’s utility.Dulce Ortiz, an administrative assistant at Faith Action, said she the ID card helped her feel comfortable approaching police in times of need.”It means safety and wellbeing,” Ortiz said. “It means that we are no longer afraid to call the police officers when we have seen crimes committed or when we have been victims of a crime.”Ortiz said she was once the victim of a serious crime, but did not call police because she was afraid of them. The process of securing the Faith Action ID allowed her to overcome that fear, in addition to giving her a way to satisfy a patrol officer’s need to establish her identity.”This ID for us equals trust, it equals safer and more secure and united community for all,” Ortiz said. “The immigrant community will be devastated if they pass this bill. We have called North Carolina our home. We have stood up for it and we love this land and we care for our neighbors. We would hate to see any bill passed that threatens the safety and wellbeing of our community.”