After years of promises and delays in making progress, New York City finally unveiled its new ID cards available to residents of the five boroughs on Jan. 12, and so far the demand and success of the program has been overwhelming.
“These cards bring a security benefit, a cultural benefit, and have been in great demand for a long time,” said Thanu Yakupityage, the communications manager for the New York Immigration Coalition. “If you want to into the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, if you get stopped by police, if you need to pick up your child from school … these IDs can help in any number of ways.”
Yakupityage added that since immigrants “run the city in so many ways,” having the new ID’s offers both a symbolic and actual benefit.
“You’re talking about giving people a huge sense of pride in their community, and making them feel a bigger part of it,” she said. “So many groups have been wanting this for a long time, it’s nice to finally see it happening.”
According to the New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, more than 7,000 applications have already been taken at 19 locations around the city.
The program, called IDNYC, was a top priority for Mayor Bill DeBlasio upon taking office one year ago. It has been hailed by dozens of immigration advocacy groups as an important step to helping immigrants feel a greater part of their community, and giving them greater access to museums, hospitals and libraries in and around the city.
The ID cards, which are free and valid for five years, are available only to New York City residents and are only valid IDs for city programs and services; they are not recognized by either the state or federal government.
Nisha Agarwal, a Commissioner in the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, said the roll-out was prepared for huge crowds, 2.5 times the size of the demand in cities like San Francisco and New Haven, who have established similar programs.
“It’s been a big success so far, and we’re delighted by the response from all New Yorkers,” Agarwal said. “This really fills a need in our community, and so far everything has gone very smoothly.”
Agarwal said she visited several enrollment sites on Sunday and said the emotions she’s seeing in the faces of those applying has been overwhelming.
“The workers who are signing people up tell me they love doing this job, because they’ve never been blessed so many times by so many people in their lives!” Agarwal said with a chuckle. “It’s really a point of pride for so many, and it’s a symbol of who we are as New Yorkers.”
For more information on how to apply for an ID, and where to sign up, visit IDNYC