Apr 21, 2022 - News

Immigration advocates push Polk County for community IDs

Illustration of a hand holding an ID with the Des Moines flag on it
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Local advocates made their case to Polk County supervisors last week on why community IDs would help remove barriers in the area, especially for undocumented immigrants.

  • Now, it's up to supervisors to decide if they want to pursue the program.

Catch up fast: Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice, an immigrant advocacy group, has asked Polk County to consider offering government-issued photo IDs.

  • The IDs are meant for residents who can prove they reside in Polk County, but may not be able to provide other documentation like a birth certificate or Social Security card.

Why it matters: A government-issued ID can help individuals verify their identity, build credit and gain access to health care services, among other things, advocates say.

  • For example: GreenState Credit Union is willing to open up bank accounts for people with IDs issued from Polk County, said Kenia Calderon Ceron, VP of business development.

Between the lines: 43% of Latinos in the U.S. are "unbanked or underbanked" and may keep their cash at home. That means they're not seeking credit from banks, but are going to pawnshops or payday lenders instead, Calderon Ceron said.

Yes, but: Some of the Polk County supervisors question if they have the authority to ask a county department to perform this new service.

  • Others worry that it would lead the Legislature to block another municipal initiative, similar to the minimum wage push or plastic bag ban, said Supervisor Steve Van Oort.

What's next: Erica Johnson, founder of IMMJ, said the group is researching more details for the program, such as costs and specific operations.

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