Fifth Anniversary of the Elm City Resident Card

Jul 25, 2012

It’s been five years since New Haven became the first municipality in the country to offer an identification card to all residents, regardless of immigration status. Since then, more than 10,000 Elm City Resident Cards have been issued.

"Es muy importante. Es una identificacion legal."

John Carmona joined New Haven residents, city officials and local law enforcement at City Hall Tuesday to mark the anniversary of the Elm City Resident Card. He says the legal ID allows people to open bank accounts and get basic services.

"Antes, uno tenia que conseguir una identificacion falsa." He says before the card, undocumented immigrants used false identification.

Assistant Police Chief Luiz Casanova was working in the predominantly Latino neighborhood of Fair Haven when the card became available.

"We had a substantial amount of crime committed and not reported.  Witnesses didn’t come forward – fear of deportation. After the issuance of the card, crime dropped by over 20% in a two-year period in that sector of the city."

Lynn Smith is senior vice-president at Start Community Bank in New Haven.  

"The folks who are using the card the most right now to open bank accounts are young teenagers with their first summer job."

Back in 2007, just days after city Alderman passed the ID plan, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents swept into New Haven and detained 29 people. City officials said the raids were retaliatory against the card, but ICE claimed they’d been planned in advance. A lawsuit was filed and earlier this year 11 plaintiffs reached a landmark settlement with ICE over the raids.

Events are scheduled throughout New Haven celebrating the 5th anniversary of the Elm City Resident Card.

For WNPR, I’m Diane Orson.