City Hall is taking its municipal ID program on the road.
The Elm City Resident Card Mobile Unit took its maiden voyage to Second Star of Jacob Church in the predominantly Latino Fair Haven neighborhood on Wednesday evening. The new initiative aims to make the cards available to residents who might lack the time or the means of transportation to apply for one at City Hall.
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The Elm City Resident Card, which debuted two months ago, gives residents access to public libraries, the city dump, public parks and other city services. The ID also features a computer chip that allows carriers to use it like a debit card to pay parking meters or to make purchases at 50 participating downtown retailers.
City Hall has already issued 3,524 cards, according to community services administrator Kica Matos. The mobile unit is designed to target seniors, children and other demographics that have had difficulties obtaining cards.
“We plan on targeting vulnerable populations, like seniors and youths, and the numbers can only go up when you make the card more available,” said Emily Byrne, policy assistant to the mayor.
New Haven is the first city in the country to grant identification to all residents, regardless of immigration status. The program captured the national spotlight when it started in June, particularly after Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested 32 undocumented immigrants in Fair Haven two days after the program was unveiled.
The mobile unit was a direct response to residents’ requests that the ID services come to them, Matos said.
“The cards are available right here in your neighborhood, at your church, in your community,” said Ward 16 alderwoman Migdalia Castro. “We invite everyone to come out because if this one’s not near you, the next one may be around your corner.”
The unit plans to make weekly excursions to various community centers, including senior centers, community organizations, public schools, churches and Old Campus. It is slated to come to Yale the week of Nov. 5, Byrne said, although other city officials said that date is not final.
“Yale students are the perfect target group for this ID,” said city spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga. “Students who are here for four years of school should also be able to access basic city services, but they may not need or want a Connecticut driver’s license.”
Maddie Gelblum ’08, an intern at the mayor’s office, encouraged Elis to participate in the program.
“Students are residents of New Haven like anyone else, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t take part like any other resident,” she said.
The pastor of Second Star of Jacob Church invited the unit to set up in its small foyer. A line of elderly couples, mothers with young children in tow, and other residents lined up outside to pick up and fill out the paperwork, pay the $10 fee, present their proofs of identity and residency, and have their photos taken. The applications were processed later at City Hall, and the cards will be mailed to the applicants.
Milagro Adorno, who applied for her card at the church Wednesday, said it would have been impossible for her to obtain a card if the service had not come to her local church. Her job at Wal-Mart leaves her no time to go to City Hall during business hours.
Juan Reyes, who also applied, said bringing the ID services into the neighborhoods has helped ease lingering anxieties from June’s ICE raid.
“It helps calm people down,” he said. “It helps people get out of their houses instead of worrying that they’re going to come after us.”
Joseph Martinez, who was born in the United States, said he applied for an ID to show solidarity with the Latino community.
“They have my support, especially the hardworking people who come here wanting to make something of themselves, to have a better life and give their kids what they can’t give them in their home countries,” he said.
While the program is generally popular within New Haven, it has sparked controversy elsewhere. The city dismissed a northern Connecticut newspaper’s Freedom of Information Act request for the names of municipal ID applicants last month, citing invasion of privacy concerns.