In an effort to be seen as more of a welcoming community, Northern Kentucky will soon launch an identification card program making it easier for immigrants to obtain some government services.
"This, just a plastic card with your picture," said Irene Encarnacion, the interim director of Esperanza Latino Center.
Aside from the practical reasons for residents to get the Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati (MARCC) ID card, including getting access to various city services, the cards have a symbolic weight for people who hope to be recognized as part of the community.
"To say, 'now I have an ID with my picture,' it makes me feel like I belong to the region," Encarnacion said.
The Esperanza Latino Center of Northern Kentucky will soon begin distributing the cards in Covington. The cards contain a photo, name, date of birth and address.
To get a MARCC ID card, applicants need two documents:
- A document that lists their current address, such as a bank statement, a utility bill, a credit card bill or a lease
- A document that includes their date of birth, such as a birth certificate, passport, military ID, driver's license, foreign, national ID card from their home country or what's called a Matricula Consular.
"The card allows the cardholder to have access to healthcare, as a primary ID card, to library services" said Margaret Fox, the executive director of MARCC.
The Cincinnati City Council approved a similar program in 2016.
"We are beyond words that Covington has received the card," Fox said.
Fox said having an ID can be life-changing. The cards can help people obtain housing because it makes it easier for landlords to accept immigrant applicants.
Covington police Chief Rob Nader said the cards will be helpful to officers and immigrants in different situations regardless of whether a card-holder is a victim, witness or suspect. If police encounter a language barrier when speaking to a person, for instance, a card could enable a smoother introduction. The cards might also make it easier for immigrants who would normally avoid police to report crimes.
The City of Covington will accept the IDs for all local government services, although the card is different than a driver's license and can't be used to vote. Encarnacion said the program will make a big difference in helping immigrants feel accepted into the community.
"There's many things where you are constantly being asked for your ID and we never think about that," Encarnacion said. "We take it for granted."
The Esperanza Latino Center of Northern Kentucky will host ID drives in March or April of 2020. The cards cost $15 and are valid for one year.