Members of Johnson County may benefit from community ID

Community IDs have been available in Johnson County since 2015, but with current issues surrounding the immigrant population, they provide some with a sense of brotherhood.


Maria Kuiper, News Reporter

Johnson County provides some sense of brother- and sisterhood with community identification cards that may benefit undocumented immigrants, local officials say.

A community ID is a type of identification card issued by a county or any sort of municipality, rather than the state government.

Community-ID cards have been available in Johnson County since 2015; they were the first of their kind in the Midwest.

These ID cards benefit individuals who are without proper forms of documentation for a driver’s license or non-operative ID card, have lost their documents in a natural disaster, or are undocumented immigrants.

Johnson County Supervisor Mike Carberry said this is a great step for involving undocumented immigrants, and he believes it could further help promote the phrasing of “undocumented immigrant” rather than “illegal alien.”

“Immigrants without status are not illegal aliens,” he said. “Being without proper documentation is a misdemeanor, not an illegal crime.”

The city of Iowa City worked with the Center for Worker Justice, the Iowa City Human Rights Commission, and the Consultation of Religious Communities in order to create the community ID, which could benefit people who need it the most.

With the IDs, members of the community will be able to report crimes without apprehension, access medical care and pharmacies, create an account with local utilities, rent a place to live, and access city and county services.

Since its implementation, the number of issued cards has been decreasing. However, that is not necessarily a bad thing, say two supervisors.

Carberry said he believes allies of the program who did not necessarily need IDs received theirs at the start of the program, and the remaining cards being issued are to people who need them.

County Supervisor Lisa Green-Douglas said there have been just under 2,000 cards issued, and there are now a steady trickle of people seeking to obtain community IDs.

Next summer, all adult community IDs issued in the summer of 2015 will expire and will have to be renewed. IDs for children expire every two years.

This is not the only effort local entities have undertaken to embrace undocumented immigrants.

RELATED: New law begins targeting ‘sanctuary cities’ 

According to a previous DI article, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a measure, which became law in July, that will bar funds from local governments for not working with federal officials regarding the enforcement of immigration laws.

The law targets so-called sanctuary cities, which are defined as cities that discourage helping federal immigration enforcement. In January 2017, the Iowa City City Council passed a resolution stating it would not use local resources to enforce federal immigration law.

Green-Douglass said it was a great accomplishment to have the county attorney and police encourage the idea of community IDs.

“[Undocumented immigrants] could see the community police and law enforcement are a form of public service,” Green-Douglass said. “The IDs are a way to allow people to participate in public safety and not fear deportation.”

Joe Coulter, a board member of the Human Rights Commission, agrees.

“Having a community ID accepted by the local police as a valid ID makes the relationship of the community to law enforcement much improved,” he said. “Everyone’s safety benefits from that.”

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