Can NYC’s ID Program Work on Long Island?

IDNYC de blasio
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio holds up a sample of the IDNYC cards that the city began issuing in January.

In January, New York City unveiled its IDNYC program, which provides new ID cards to residents of the five boroughs regardless of immigration status. The program earned praise from a number of advocacy groups, as it allows undocumented immigrants to join other New York residents in obtaining recognized identification and access to city services.

In light of the program’s success, immigration experts and members of the undocumented community living outside the city, find themselves asking how and when a similar program might be implemented in Long Island’s own towns and neighborhoods.

“I think it [IDNYC] is a huge step forward in New York City. It will mean the difference for tens if not hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who as of now haven’t been able to get identification,” said Daniel Altschuler, coordinator at Make the Road NY, a grassroots advocacy organization with deep roots in Long Island’s undocumented community.

“In terms of Long Island, this type of thing would be great. It would be great for the approximately 100,000 undocumented immigrants… and other populations that are benefiting in New York City,” said Altschuler.

In the years leading to the implementation of the IDNYC program, many advocacy groups have been working to influence change and bring the struggles and interests of undocumented immigrants to light.

Daniel Coates, lead community organizer for Make the Road NY, said that the timing and combined work of these group coalitions proved to be instrumental to the success of the new ID program.

So what would it take for a program like IDNYC to get the green light on Long Island?

Coates said that, in the absence of Congress passing comprehensive immigration reform, it is up to municipalities to “step up” and develop their own solutions to help immigrants who live in their communities. “The idea that municipalities can step in and sort of create ways to integrate different communities is a really powerful [approach],” he said.

While IDNYC is showing signs of its success, implementing a similar program on Long Island wouldn’t come without its own set of challenges and obstacles, according to Lucas Sanchez, a representative of New York Communities for Change, a membership organization representing more than 45,000 low and moderate income families in New York.

Despite possible setbacks that Sanchez claims may be rooted in anti-immigrant sentiment, the chance for a municipal ID program on Long Island is still very possible.

“I think the potential is there because we have the proof that it’s possible with what happened in the city,” said Sanchez.

He added that there has always been a push nationally for undocumented immigrants to have access to recognized forms of identification like driver’s licenses. And with the passing of the IDNYC program, Sanchez hopes that state-issued driver’s licenses can one day become a reality.

For the large number of immigrants living on Long Island, the IDNYC program and the benefits it carries for New York City’s undocumented residents is a bittersweet reality.

Residents like Consepcion Sáenz, 41, said that a program like the one being implemented in Manhattan would prove incredibly beneficial for Long Island’s undocumented communities, of which he is a part of. But the real benefit would come from more than just an ID.

“The idea with IDs can be good, it can be nice, but the best thing to do in New York and on Long Island is to get a [driver’s] license,” said Sáenz. “The license would be much better and would create more income for New York because insurance, registration, and everything like that would be better for the person, for the state and everybody is going to be better that way.”

Given its conservative environment, Long Island may be farther off from enjoying such a thing, but Sáenz remains positive and hopeful for the future.

“Long Island has a lot of undocumented immigrants and they will be very happy if [the ID program] comes true to Long Island,” said Sáenz.


  1. Open letter to the DiBlasio administration:

    I am writing to express some views on the citys burial and internment policies. I am concerned that the city lacks an adequate program to address our burial demand. This basically relates to an adequate program that is able to care and accommodate for the dead. Due to the Corona virus, there is even a greater need to address this serious public issue. Mainly, we do not have an adequate program that lets us know the means of burial and religious concerns for the dead.

    This is a failure of the citys IDNYC program. The IDNYC program (nor the DMVs license and non-drivers ID) do not provide a place for religious designation. This creates a substantial hole for city workers to determine the race and religion of the deceased. If this information existed on some piece of ID carried by citizens of New York City, it would greatly reduce the doubt and uncertainty lest the person pass away. If the deceased carried a wallet with this information it would be much easier to determine the race/religion of the deceased. Without such clear and identifying information, city workers cannot guess the religious preference.

    This is travesty. With so many dead and passing due to the Corona virus (many of them homeless and elderly without next of kin), it is highly likely that the burials and disposal of the bodies has been botched. If the city does not invoke some kind of program that helps us know the religion of the deceased, it is almost impossible to determine whether the person preferred burial versus cremation (since the city prefers cremation to save time and money and for health reasons) without the consent of the subject. This type of violation of an individuals rights is going on unnoticed. We must stop it once and for all and to ensure that every citizen is identified based on religion and that their preference for burial or cremation is on record with the city. This can only occur with some kind of partnership and collaboration with IDNYC or the DMV to enable identification based on religion and other factors.

    I urge the Mayors office to act on such a public issue of great concern and to modify the IDNYC to show religion. With so many susceptible to the Corona virus and as someone who has lost close friends himself, I am greatly concerned for this moral and decisive topic that affects us all. When such a sickness can come out of nowhere and is taking lives, we need to reassess our priorities and further, give dignity and respect to those who fall victim to the pandemic. Lets not wait for another pandemic to tell us that we are not properly disposing of our dead and passed and that the city has no recourse to address a widespread issue.

    Please act now.