LOS ANGELES – Illegal immigrants in California's largest city could use library cards to open bank accounts and access an array of city services under a plan being considered by city officials.
Under the plan, anyone with proof of Los Angeles residency could get a library card, the Los Angeles Times reported (lat.ms/P967MO). The idea is to provide a form of ID to those who cannot get a driver's license because of their immigration status.
The City Council unanimously voted recently to consider the proposal, which would have Los Angeles join a growing number of cities across the nation that offer various forms of identification to illegal immigrants and others who cannot get driver's licenses because of their immigration status. San Francisco and Oakland have adopted similar measures.
An estimated 300,000 illegal immigrants in Los Angeles lack a bank account because banks generally require official identification to open an account.
Los Angeles Councilman Richard Alarcon, who proposed the concept, said some immigrants who don't use banks end up being gouged by payday lenders or robbed if they keep large sums of cash on hand.
"They can be scammed and taken advantage of," Alarcon said. "This will help end that."
The cards would not be a substitute for driver's licenses and would not provide protection from deportation by federal immigration authorities. The cards would include a user's name, address and photograph, and would be issued through the city's libraries. They would cost applicants $15 to $20, and could include a monthly fee of up to $2.99.
Ira Mehlman, communications director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said ID cards can easily be exploited by terrorists and criminals and encourage illegal immigration.
"Cities should not be in the business of making it easier for people to violate federal law, even if they don't pose a security risk," he said.
Gustavo Martin, a 32-year-old mechanic, told the newspaper he would be interested in obtaining a card. On payday, he goes to a check cashing business and pays $5.50 in fees to cash his $317 weekly check, he said.
"It's safe, then OK," Martin said.
Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com