A coalition of Kansas City, KS, organizations want the Unified Government to enact a two-part ordinance they believe would make Wyandotte County a safer and more welcoming place.
The first part of the ordinance, which the group calls Safe and Welcoming Wyandotte, would direct the city to create a municipal identification card, which is a form of photo identification that a city or county government issues to prove a person’s identity within city limits.
A municipal identification card is not a driver’s license and typically has fewer barriers than a state and federal identification would require, like a permanent address, which not everyone has. If the ordinance passes, Wyandotte County will set its own rules about what an individual has to do in order to receive the municipal identification card.
The second part of the ordinance prevents Kansas City, Kansas Police Department from collaborating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The Unified Government said they are working with the Safe and Welcoming group to come up with a compromised agreement, but the group is continuing to apply pressure.
The coalition supporting Safe and Welcoming, including organizations like ACLU of Kansas, Advocates for Immigrant Rights and Reconciliation, KCK NAACP and MORE2 predict that there are nearly 30,000 people in Wyandotte County who may have difficulty accessing a government-issued identification. Of those most affected are those who have been formerly incarcerated, the houseless, transgendered people, immigrants and foster children.
You often need a form of photo identification to open a bank account, see a doctor, apply for public benefits and to engage with police.
District Attorney Mark Dupree voiced his support for the ordinance and said those who may not have proper photo identification may be less likely to report a crime or come forward as a witness to a crime, which could result in the perpetrator walking free.
“We find specifically in this area where many individuals are not willing to come forward because they are afraid that they will be deported, that someone will report them,” Dupree said. “These are the type of situations that hinder the safety of not just the victim of the crime that was dealing with whatever particular issue, but for the safety of this entire community.”
Monsignor Stuart Swetland, president of Donnelly College, said he’s seen municipal identifications work in cities like Urbana, IL. He said there was an increase in economic activity after the city launched its municipal identification program.
“It was good for the community. It was good for the common good, so I’ve seen these programs work firsthand, and it helps everyone in the county or region,” Swetland said. “Our local officials should be focused on the common good.”
Some other cities that have created a municipal identification card program include Phoenix, Austin, Milwaukee and New York City. All of those programs report an increase in reporting crimes and a significant reduction in crime.
“Safe and Welcoming would help us keep our society safer, and would help law enforcement do its legitimate job of keeping us healthy and safe,” Swetland said.
On Thurs., July 15 at 6 p.m., the Safe and Welcoming Wyandotte coalition will rally to show their support for the ordinance at city hall.
Jazzlyn Johnson is a Report for America corps member based at The Community Voice covering Kansas City’s African-American community.