Yazmin Bruno, an undocumented immigrant, is one of the 30,000 people living in Wyandotte County that are estimated to have difficulty accessing government-issued identification.
“Every four Wyandotte County residents do not have a valid form of ID. I am one of them,” she said. “Simple things like going to the bank or prom were privileges that I was not allowed to have.”
Immigrants like Bruno, those who have been formerly incarcerated, the houseless, transgendered people and foster children, are all impacted the most by not having an ID.
“We know the importance to our families to have access to an ID to get a library card, get into the banking system, access food resources, utility assistance and so much more. This pandemic has made this even more critical now,” said Randy Lopez, a KCK School Board member.
A coalition of Kansas City, KS, organizations, including MORE2, Advocates for Immigrant Rights and Reconciliation, KCK NAACP and others, rallied Thursday night in front of city hall in support of a two-part ordinance, Safe and Welcoming Wyandotte, that would direct the city to create a municipal identification card and prevent the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department from collaborating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“(KCKPD) say they don’t work with ICE, but we know that they do. They give them courtesy calls about undocumented people,” said Valeria Espadas, community mobilizer with El Centro, Inc. told the crowd. “That is why this ordinance is so important. It is time that the UG and the mayor say to our immigrant brothers and sisters that, ‘We see you, we are here for you and you are welcomed here. This is your home.’”
A municipal identification card is not a driver’s license and typically requires 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.
Because organizers for Safe and Welcoming believe the ordinance would make Wyandotte County a safer and more welcoming place, they are demanding Mayor David Alvey schedule a special hearing where public testimony on the ordinance is allowed and they’re also demanding passage of the ordinance.
“This ID program would be the first step to not only protect undocumented folks, but also bring a sense of belonging,” Bruno said.
District Attorney Mark Dupree has voiced his support for the ordinance as a way to assist in the county’s criminal justice system. Because an ID is required to interact with police, individuals without a 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.”
The Unified Government said they are working with the Safe and Welcoming group to come up with a compromise agreement, but the group is continuing to apply pressure.