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San Francisco Approves Identification Cards for Illegal Immigrant, Transgender Residents

The city of San Francisco has tentatively approved a program to provide identification cards to illegal immigrants, transgender people and other residents who may be unable or unwilling to get a state-issued driver's license.

The Board of Supervisors, San Francisco's version of a city council, voted 10-1 Tuesday to approve the program late Tuesday. Next week, they will take a final vote, which is considered a formality. Mayor Gavin Newsom has said he intends to sign it.

The identification card program was modeled after one launched this summer in New Haven, Connecticut, and is designed to help residents without IDs to access services and feel safe dealing with police.

Similar programs have been proposed in New York City and Miami, but so far San Francisco is the biggest city to adopt one.

City supervisor Tom Ammiano introduced the ID card concept after Congress failed to adopt immigration reform legislation this summer and following a series of federal immigration raids in the Bay area.

"Our city just can't stand by while our federal government takes no action to address the safety needs of our community," he said. "If our friends and neighbors are not fully able to participate with us in civic life, we all lose in the end."

Government agencies and nonprofit groups that receive city funds would be required to accept the cards as valid identification and proof of residency except for hiring or other areas where doing so conflicts with federal or state laws.

The cards, available to the city's 750,000 residents, are intended for undocumented residents who are ineligible for driver's licenses, senior citizens who no longer drive and transgender people whose driver's licenses no longer reflect their appearances.

Unlike in New Haven, where anti-immigration groups actively opposed the cards, the ID measure has not met much dissent here. Labor unions, advocates for the homeless and immigrant rights activists all lobbied for its passage.