Statement of the NYCLU Regarding the New York City Municipal ID Bill

My name is Johanna Miller; I am the advocacy director at the New York Civil Liberties Union. The NYCLU represents 50,000 members and supporters across New York State. We are a longstanding advocate for the rights of members of vulnerable communities, and we appreciate the work of the de Blasio administration to make New York City more accommodating to all its residents.

A municipal ID is a valuable tool for New Yorkers to accomplish basic things like opening a bank account or easily obtaining access to their child’s school or daycare. It will affirm and protect transgender New Yorkers who struggle to obtain proper identity documents. It will acknowledge the participation and contributions of immigrants, homeless people, and other marginalized communities to our city. The benefits of having a government identification card are significant, and carry with them a great promise of participation in all New York has to offer.

Unfortunately, the bill that is before the mayor today also provides for the city to copy and store people’s most sensitive documentation, like pay stubs, social security numbers, and even their children’s educational records. In this bill, the city has not done enough to protect those documents from being used by law enforcement. The NYPD, FBI, DHS and others can request these documents without having to show probable cause. And if they are requested, the city has no obligation to even notify the person so they might be able to defend their own privacy. For these reasons, the NYCLU regretfully cannot support this legislation.

While the NYC ID will bring benefits to many people, we are disappointed that the city is inviting New Yorkers to gamble with the stakes as high as prosecution or even deportation. Because of the serious risks, it is incumbent on the city to fully utilize the protective features built into the program: the reporting requirement will provide valuable metrics on how and when people’s documents are used by law enforcement, and the sunset provision gives the city a meaningful opportunity to end the document retention after a preliminary period.

We urge you, and other public officials, to carefully consider and study the impact document retention has on vulnerable communities. If it threatens to turn the NYC ID from a key to greater opportunities into a tool for law enforcement and immigration authorities, the City must reconsider its approach to protecting the privacy of NYC ID applicants. The NYCLU is committed to working with advocates and city officials to fairly assess this impact, and continuing to improve the NYC ID program for everyone.