Owen Courreges: Introducing the official “NOLA loves me” ID card for immigrants

Print More
(illustration by Owen Courreges)

(illustration by Owen Courreges)

Owen Courreges

Councilwoman Latoya Cantrell is set to preview the next installment in her cavalcade of “progressive” policies enacted by other cities. This past week, she announced her intention to introduce a non-binding “Welcoming Resolution” early next year that will include a laundry list of policies proposed by immigrant rights groups.

Don’t get me wrong – some of the policies being suggested are perfectly reasonable. I can hardly dispute the need for multi-language signs and forms at City Hall, or for hiring more Spanish-speakers in the NOPD and in government offices.  We’re relatively close to the Mexican border, and we do need to accommodate the needs of Spanish-speakers.

However, Cantrell’s brief tenure thus far has shown that she has never been one to stop with reasonable policies.  Thus, she also announced that she wants to create a system of municipal identification cards, ostensibly so that illegal immigrants can have photographic identification and proof of residence.

This would be of no benefit to citizens and foreign nationals legally residing in New Orleans, of course, since they would be able to obtain a state-issued ID with relative ease.  However, it would also be superfluous for virtually all illegal immigrants, since they can obtain adequate identification from the country where they are a citizen.

In the case of Mexico, the Mexican government freely issues the Matrícula Consular de Alta Seguridad, a counselor identification card (CID) through its consulates, including one here in New Orleans.  Mexican CID cards have been criticized in some quarters as being subject to fraud due to on-site verification of some supporting documents, but they are still generally-accepted as proof of both identity and residency.  Some banks even accept CID cards for the purpose of opening an account.

Given the prevalence of CID cards and the convenient presence of a Mexican Consulate in New Orleans for their issue, there is simply no need whatsoever for municipal ID cards. The only purpose municipal IDs serve is to provide an ID issued by an American political subdivision, but that’s useless posturing.  It doesn’t afford any additional legal status.

At best municipal IDs merely obfuscate immigration status, and unless there’s a pressing reason for legal residents to obtain one, they can’t even serve that purpose.

If a person is in the country illegally, the City of New Orleans can’t change that by issuing them a plastic card with their name, address, photograph, and (I’m supposing) a cheap graphic of a fleur-de-lis.  The only thing the City of New Orleans can realistically accomplish through a municipal ID is to thumb its nose at federal immigration policy (and there are cheaper and smarter ways of doing that).

So why is Cantrell pushing for municipal IDs?  Put glibly, it’s the flavor of the month in progressive policy circles.

The drive for municipal ID cards started in New Haven, Connecticut in 2007.  This was followed in 2009 by the SF City ID Card.  Since that time, municipal IDs have spread to other cities in California and the northeast.  They were just enacted this year in New York City, and now it seems like every day another local official vying for applause from immigrant rights groups is proposing one.

Since the cards are abjectly redundant, some cities have attempted to make them worthwhile by bundling them with additional benefits.  Oakland and Richmond made their municipal IDs into prepaid debit cards, thus allowing illegal immigrants the privilege of being ripped off by the fees charged by large banks.  New York, on the other hand, negotiated a deal to where the municipal ID cards would provide a one-year free membership at 33 major cultural institutions.

Of course, it doesn’t change the bottom line.  These benefits could have been provided to residents without creating a municipal ID card program.

Rather, the bundling of additional uses or benefits is merely a scheme to give legal residents some reason to obtain a municipal ID, providing the program with a false veneer of credibility.  In the words of David Marcus, writing for the National Review, New York’s gambit of providing free memberships amounts to “inventing a reason for citizens to get an ID whose only purpose is to obscure the line between legal and illegal residents.”

Obscuring immigration status is a dubious aim to begin with, and frankly, municipal ID cards are unlikely to fool anyone.  In the end, those who reside in New Orleans legally will continue using state-issued IDs.  Illegal immigrants might be persuaded to obtain a municipal ID card, but they won’t really receive any significant benefit from one over a CID card.  The only clear winners are advocacy groups who claim what amounts to a symbolic victory.

My disappointment with Cantrell continues to grow.  This is not merely a bad policy to be proposing, it’s a stupid one.  It’s the type of nonsense indulged by people with ulterior motives who don’t really care about wasted time and expense so long as they get to make their point.

Cantrell’s continued progressive posturing is fast becoming insufferable.  It’s something we don’t need and can’t afford.

Owen Courrèges, a New Orleans attorney and resident of the Garden District, offers his opinions for UptownMessenger.com on Mondays. He has previously written for the Reason Public Policy Foundation.

15 thoughts on “Owen Courreges: Introducing the official “NOLA loves me” ID card for immigrants

  1. Oh, I don’t know. You get a photo i.d., it could help you open a bank account, or see your child in school, show the police who you are. And the city has some record of you now. “Insufferable”?? Doesn’t bother me. Can they put I’m A Cajun on mine?

    • TraveLAr,

      That’s what counselor ID cards are for. There is no unmet need for IDs for illegals for any purpose. I said this repeatedly; did you even read my column, or did you just skim it?

      As for the city having “some record of you now,” why does the city need that? The city doesn’t need to keep track of everyone claiming residence for any purpose I can gather, and in any event, there’s no way this program would accomplish that (again, this would be evident if you’d actually read the column).

      Finally, if the idea of the city issuing ID cards for no valid purpose doesn’t bother you, I assume you would also have no problem with the city simply taking your tax money and throwing it down a rat hole.

      Goodness, this trend towards vapid excuse-making for the bone-headed crap from city hall makes me weep for the future.

      • Consulate ID cards require an investigation back in the immigrant’s native city, which can cause officials in that country to harass relatives or worse, where the immigrant left because of political violence. Not every country has a local consulate. A city card would provide a simple local spot for folks — I would include the homeless — to get a photo i.d., and the city the ability to have some contact info for that person. They’re not on the voter roles, remember, like you and I are. I’m sorry you’re angry that this is somehow throwing money away and causing you to weep for the future, but not everybody in the world HAS to agree with everything you write, do they? Yes I have plenty of cards with my beautiful photo. Sam’s, Costco, some clubs, not to mention all the phony mock-up American Express cards I keep getting in the mail thinking I need more and more credit. …Because, I have credit and a bank account. Immigrants and homeless are a popular target for street thugs because they are believed to carry their money with them for the very reason that it is impossible for them to open bank accounts without picture i.d. If a city program, probably with no cost, can provide some steps to security and lower the ability of street thugs to score, I must sincerely apologize for having the temerity to disagree with the overly touchy Owen Courreges and taking the position that these cards are a civilized way of providing some support, and are okay with me. Oh yes, I should add that any excuse for opposing what I have now said makes me, um, weep for the future and all, but really, I can’t get into this constant angry outrage stuff.

        • TraveLAr,

          >>Consulate ID cards require an investigation back in the immigrant’s native city, which can cause officials in that country to harass relatives or worse, where the immigrant left because of political violence.<>Not every country has a local consulate.<> A city card would provide a simple local spot for folks — I would include the homeless — to get a photo i.d., and the city the ability to have some contact info for that person.<>I’m sorry you’re angry that this is somehow throwing money away and causing you to weep for the future, but not everybody in the world HAS to agree with everything you write, do they?<>Immigrants and homeless are a popular target for street thugs because they are believed to carry their money with them for the very reason that it is impossible for them to open bank accounts without picture i.d.<<

          Again, the IDs are redundant. The people you describe can already get photo IDs. Unless the city is planning on issuing IDs based on flimsy documentation requirements (which would negate their purpose) they offer no advantage over what is already available. CIDs are widely available for illegal immigrants and the homeless can get state IDs.

          The point of my piece was to ask why there's a push to create redundant municipal ID programs. Given the background, it's fairly clear that it's about making a political statement. I'm not hearing a credible argument to the contrary.

          • ‘If an immigrant left a country because of “political violence” and are thus frightened of applying for a CID, they should be applying for asylum anyway. And unless they somehow lacked an ID yet made it out with personal documentation (because otherwise they’d have to request it, creating the same problems as with the CID), I don’t see how they could get a valid ID regardless.’

            I don’t really get why the term political violence is in quotations, as if it’s a made-up concept. As someone who works with undocumented immigrants in the city, believe me, the violence is all too real. I don’t know one single person who hasn’t been a witness to it, been a victim, or had a family member be a victim.

            Also, gaining asylum status is so difficult it’s not even funny. Particularly if you’re from Central America; then it’s next to impossible.

          • coco ebert,

            I quoted the phrase because it was the term he used, one that would be more easily associated with an asylum request.

            Now, I understand that applying for asylum is difficult, so I’m not acting as though that’s a cure-all. What I’m disputing is the notion that there are illegal immigrants who have come here fleeing political violence who have adequate documentary proof of their identities but are legitimately scared of simply applying for a counselor ID card.

  2. Is this for legal immigrants or illegal immigrants? I can’t imagine too many illegals applying for a card. If we can charge for the card, I’m ok with it. Actually, official New Orleans resident cards might be cool.

    • Deux,

      They’re intended for illegal immigrants. Legal immigrants would instead just get a state ID.

      I’m sure they’ll have a fee for the card, but I seriously doubt it will cover the full cost. Regardless, I find the notion of a superfluous ID to be more silly than cool — even if the city can sell people on it, it’s still wasteful.

    • I would totally get a new orleans resident card.

      Can we get a special badge printed on it if one was born here,or little medals for number of years in residence if not?

  3. Well if you’re going to quote the National Review as some sort of “credible” source, you can kiss some of your personal credibility goodbye…

    • Craig,

      I quoted a pertinent opinion piece published in the National Review. I wasn’t taking the author’s word on anything; I was just approving of his opinion and reasoning.

      In any event, David Marcus is a freelance writer. If there is anything wrong with his argument, feel free to point it out. Otherwise, I don’t see your point.

  4. I can’t see many illegals getting an id card. From what I’ve seen, if you’re somewhere illegally you don’t usually want to be on the radar. Most of them probably have fear of immigration coming to get them if they have any paper trail.

    I do see a benefit of some form of id so they can open a bank account or if they want to register their kids for school but overcoming the fear might be hard. You can offer something all you want but people have to take advantage of it to make it work.

    • Brendan,

      That’s why a CID card, or Matricular Consolar, is sufficient. Some banks accept them, they’re generally accepted as proof of residence, and they’re issued by the Mexican government. Other nations have similar cards. The only point to the municipal ID program is to suggest that illegals in New Orleans are somehow “citizens” of the city, but that’s just ridiculous. It’s political posturing; it doesn’t confer any legal status.

      Other cities that have tried municipal ID cards aren’t really seeing much success. I know New Haven’s program, the first in the country, is failing because the cards aren’t widely accepted — people are having to use their passports. The only reported “success” is feel-good pablum about a sense of community, blah-blah-blah, as if that justifies issuing some dumb redundant card.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *