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Baltimore Municipal ID Program May Finally Launch After 7 Years

The program is for residents who struggled to provide documents for federal IDs, including homeless people, immigrants or victims of domestic abuse and was approved in 2016. A committee will discuss the issue on Wednesday.

Then-Councilman Brandon Scott holds a municipal ID card mockup in 2016.
Then-Councilman Brandon Scott holds a municipal ID card mockup in 2016. (Algerina Perna/Baltimore Sun/TNS)
A program to grant Baltimore, Md., residents city identification cards may move forward seven years after it was greenlighted.

The Baltimore City Council passed legislation in 2016 establishing a municipal identification card program. Then-Councilman Brandon Scott touted the cards as a way for residents who struggled to provide documents for obtaining federal identification, like homeless people, immigrants, and people recently released from incarceration, to gain city-specific credentials.

Discussion of the idea, which seemed to fizzle after 2016, is set for a City Council committee hearing Wednesday.

“These IDs will be available to homeless people, to immigrants and refugees, to women who are the victims of domestic abuse who can’t get their documents in order to get another ID,” now-Mayor Scott, a Democrat, told The Baltimore Sun at the time. He also said the cards would cut down on arrests for low-level offenses, because citizens would be able to provide a city ID and receive a citation instead of apprehension, and instill civic pride in city residents.

Though it passed the council and was codified into the city code, the municipal ID program was never implemented or funded. A number of cities, like San Francisco, Philadelphia, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, have begun offering their own municipal ID cards, which allow residents to access services and cultural amenities like libraries.

Immigration advocates say city-specific identification cards allow people who’ve recently come to the United States to more easily establish residency than federal documents, which come with higher financial and language barriers. It’s also easier for transgender people to obtain documentation that is congruent with their gender identities than passports or driver’s licenses, which often require proof of name and gender marker changes.

District 14 Councilwoman Odette Ramos, who often advocates on behalf of immigrants’ rights, said she waited to give the mayor’s office “a chance to work on” the municipal ID program before introducing a resolution last year to revitalize the program, which led to the meeting this week.

“The reason I’m pushing for this is because I very much believe in it,” Ramos said. “This isn’t particularly mind-blowing or groundbreaking. It just makes sense.”

A request for proposal for the municipal IDs is in the works, according to Bryan Doherty, Scott’s director of communications.

Discussion on the resolution, which Ramos introduced in September 2022, will include its status, obstacles, and a timeline for implementation, according to the council calendar.

Ramos said she couldn’t explain the lag time or why there was no push to institute the program in the seven years since its establishment. The council passed the legislation in December 2016, at the tail end of former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s administration, and was not considered during either Catherine Pugh’s or Bernard C. “Jack” Young’s tenures.

“That’s one of the questions I have for [the mayor] when we meet,” Ramos said.

The resolution will be discussed by the City Council’s Health, Environment, and Technology Committee on Wednesday at 10 a.m. Officials from the city solicitor’s office, the finance department, the Office of Equity and Civil Rights, and mayor’s offices of Information Technology and Immigrant Affairs are expected to attend.

©2023 Baltimore Sun. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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