Community ID would serve diverse groups, speakers say at Iowa City forum

Some residents hesitant to be visible in society


Supporters of a community ID in Iowa City point to how many times people need identification.

"We don't account for how often we use it," said Misty Rebik, executive director for the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa.

On Friday night, more than 100 people packed into the center's building in Iowa City to learn more about how a community ID card would work.  Many in the audience represented the diversity of a changing city with some wearing headphones to listen to a Spanish translation of the public forum.

Karla Stoltzfus Detweiler, pastor at First Mennonite Church in Iowa City, was a panelist and spoke about how some, especially those who may be immigrants living here illegally, can be hesitant to be visible within society.

"There's always this fear that someone is going to ask for my ID or someone is going to be watching very carefully and I have to be looking over my shoulder," said Detweiler.

A handful of cities in the United States do offer a community ID that is recognized and accepted by government and law enforcement agencies.  New Haven, Connecticut started the cards in 2007 and a some cities in California, such as San Francisco and Oakland, have followed.

"I saw the transformation of that community," said UI School of Law Associate Professor Stella Burch Elias, who said she had a New Haven community ID card while living there.  "Statistics show, after the introduction of these IDs, crime reporting increases.  People who felt vulnerable and afraid of coming forward when crimes occur are able to come forward."

In Iowa, a non-driving, state-issued ID costs $8 and is valid for eight years.  To obtain one, a citizen must offer proof of identity, such as a valid passport or a copy of a birth certificate, proof of residence and proof of a Social Security number.

While recognizing that some people who may need a community ID are in the United States illegally, they did point to more efficient cooperation between police and immigrants and also how an ID that is easier to obtain would allow a person to gain a library card, open a bank account or even purchase medicine where identification is required.

Rebik said both Johnson County and Iowa City are at least considering the community ID cards.  The CWJEI stated that a "city or county-issued ID would be preferable to an ID issued by a private organization".

"So far, the county has been in support," said Rebik, who noted there will be significant challenges in working with local law enforcement agencies on the best ways to implement this.

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