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ID Cards for the Undocumented Move Forward

Undocumented immigrants in Los Angeles will now be allowed to obtain a dual library-debit card, easing their financial lives.

The Los Angeles City Council advanced plans Wednesday to create an identification card that would serve as both a library card and a debit card for undocumented residents.

The council voted 12-1 to request proposals from banks and other third-party vendors that would help manage the program.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa first announced his plans for the Universal City Services Card earlier last month.

LA City Council voted 12-1 in favor of requesting information from banks and vendors to help manage the ID program. (Photo by Madison Sanders/ATVN)
LA City Council voted 12-1 in favor of requesting information from banks and vendors to help manage the ID program. (Photo by Madison Sanders/ATVN)

Supporters of the cards say they will help undocumented immigrants, homeless people, and residents with damaged credit gain access to local banking services.

"It's the right thing to do, it's the right time to do it, and it will put us on the right track for the future," Manuel Pastor, director of the Center for the Study of Immigrant Information at USC, said. "It's an integrated services card that will be important for issues of security and integration, but also for financial inclusion and also the promotion of literacy through the library function that it embodies."

Wednesday's approval will require the Library Department to provide a detailed plan for a new financial literacy program within the next 90 days. 

Speakers at the City Council meeting spoke of the impact the Universal City Cards will have on saving card-holders money by allowing them to avoid costly check-cashing shops.

"Over 60 percent of the unbanked population in Los Angeles is foreign born- half of them report that the reason that they can't get banked is because of a lack of I.D." Pastor said. "If we can bank the unbanked we will increase their incomes by reducing what they pay for check cashing fees"

Other cities in California, including San Francisco and Oakland, have already enacted similar plans that allow residents of their cities to gain access to library and debit cards.

Many Hispanic, Asian, Armenian and other immigration rights groups gathered at the City Council Meeting to express their support for the Universal City Services Cards.

"This card would promote civic pride amongst all Angelenos and enhance the ability of all city residents to access city services and participate in the local and regional economy," Betty Hung, Policy Director at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, said. "It presents the city with an opportunity to serve all of its resdients including populations that often have difficulty accessing financial institutions and city services."

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