The Elm City Resident Card may not help Yale students get past Toad’s Place bouncers, but organizers of New Haven Solidarity Week said they hope students will still see the card as a worthwhile investment.
New Haven Solidarity Week will kick off Monday in what may be the largest collaboration yet between University students, City Hall officials and community organizations as they attempt to promote the ID cards. Featuring over 25 student groups — with interests ranging from politics and cultural issues to social justice and religion — the week is aimed at registering Yale students, staff and faculty for the cards as well as presenting panels that will address political, economic and cultural questions relating to immigration in New Haven.
The week comes in the middle of widespread debate over the city’s controversial policies on immigration. In June, New Haven approved the nation’s first-ever municipal ID card program. Two days later, the Department of Homeland Security raided homes in the Fair Haven neighborhood and arrested 32 immigrants, prompting public outcry from city officials.
Following the raids, organizers said they felt the need to promote solidarity between University students and the New Haven community, which led them to organize an ID registration drive and educational panels.
“The reason we titled the week ‘New Haven Solidarity Week’ is to get students to think about what it means to live in New Haven,” said Lauren Jacobson ’08, Dwight Hall and NHSW co-coordinator. “By getting this ID, it is a powerful act in asserting our membership in the New Haven community … It’s really important that we understand why the city is doing this and why it’s necessary to take such a big step in protecting the community of immigrants in New Haven.”
In addition to incorporating Yale students into the community, program organizers also hope city residents will see Yale students’ signing up for the ID card as an indication that Yalies care about the greater New Haven community, said Jason Blau ’08, FOCUS on New Haven and NHSW co-coordinator.
The photo ID cards, available to all New Haven residents regardless of age or citizenship status, are accepted as primary identification by a number of businesses and banks around the city, in addition to providing holders with discounts at local stores and restaurants and doubling as a library card. New Haven residents can also debit up to $150 on the cards — a measure designed to give undocumented immigrants the freedom to store their paycheck on their cards without fearing that their cash will be stolen.
In recent years, a rise in muggings of Latin Americans in Fair Haven sparked concerns about racial profiling and general safety in New Haven, City Hall spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said.
Although the cards have been available to all New Haven residents since July, NHSW coordinators said students have had a much harder time obtaining the cards because of City Hall’s separation from campus and its five-hour window of operation from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Many students did not hear about the cards because they were released over the summer, Yale American Civil Liberties Union Chair and NHSW co-coordinator Dustin Cho ’08 said.
Now, with the registration process streamlined, undergraduates will only have to present their Yale student IDs and $10 for the processing fee in order to obtain an ID card. Graduate students, faculty and employees — like other New Haven card registrants — will still have to present additional electric bills.
Blau emphasized that Solidarity Week is nonpartisan. Promoting community safety is an apolitical goal, he said.
“The federal government did not act [to reform immigration] and that left municipalities and states all over the country to act,” he said. “In New Haven, it’s very much a public-safety issue when you’ve got lots of people without access to banks.”
But the cards, and New Haven’s support for its immigrant residents, have been the target of much politically charged controversy. National political pundits like Bill O’Reilly and Lou Dobbs have criticized the cards since they were announced.
City officials have said they think the June 6 DHS raids on New Haven’s predominantly Latino Fair Haven district were “political retaliation” against the city, as they took place two days after the program was approved by the Board of Aldermen.
There will also be pockets of politicized discussion next week. One panel, hosted by the Yale College Republicans, the Yale ACLU and the Yale Mexican Students Organization, will feature Chris Powell, the managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, as well as two other immigrants-rights activists from Unidad Latina en Accion and Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services.
Powell drew media attention when he filed an appeal with the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission for the names of all Elm City Resident Card registrants last month. Powell said the program protects undocumented immigrants at the expense of the middle class.
The week will incorporate an Undergraduate Organizing Committee-sponsored discussion entitled “Immigration and the Creation of a Just Economy” and testimonials from Yale students about their immigration experiences at the Slifka Center, as well as an interfaith community gathering in Dwight Hall Chapel.
There will be two panel discussions on the Fair Haven raids — one hosted by Yale’s Urban Fellows Program and another by the Latino Law Students Association, the American Constitutional Society and the Yale Civil Rights Project. Mayor John DeStefano Jr. will speak at NHSW’s Monday night kickoff.
City Hall Community Services Administrator Kica Matos said City Hall and the University are collaborating to provide more card benefits to students by asking bars and restaurants to offer discounts to cardholders and to accept the card as a primary form of identification.
“Getting a card and learning about the services it offers gives you the opportunity to explore in different ways — go to the library, go to the golf course, eat at restaurants at Grand Avenue,” Matos said. “This is a real opportunity to embrace the New Haven community in ways that you would probably not do if you didn’t have a card.”
Students can register for cards in Dwight Hall from Tuesday to Friday.