by Mary Rupert
Municipal identification card advocates on Tuesday night said they would take their issue to upcoming Unified Government Commission meetings.
At an event Tuesday night at the First Baptist Church, 2900 Minnesota Ave., more than 50 people stood up when asked if they would attend upcoming UG meetings in support of the municipal identification card idea. They also pledged to participate in a letter-writing campaign, phone call campaign and other message campaigns to UG officials.
“Here in Wyandotte County, we must build a welcoming environment that allows for all residents to thrive,” Irene Caudillo, president and CEO of El Centro, said at the event Tuesday. More than 30 local organizations are sponsoring the effort to get the ordinance passed.
She said the proposed safe and welcoming ordinance can bring the community closer together.
It has two parts, said Diosselyn Tot, the lead organizer for El Centro. The first is the municipal ID card ordinance. The second is a provision that states that local police and sheriff’s officers will not work with federal immigration authorities. She said this is necessary so those who sign up will have their information protected.
She said one in five persons in Wyandotte County, about 30,000 people, are in need of an ID card. These cards, issued by the local government, could be used by anyone who would accept them to access health services and other services, she said.
Tot said the effort has collected more than 2,000 postcards from residents in support of municipal ID and has knocked on more than 5,000 doors in the community.
It isn’t the first time the municipal ID ordinance has been proposed here. It has been discussed for about two years, but efforts did not get anywhere at the UG Commission level.
There have been some meetings with commissioners. According to the coalition, the mayor has said he would hear the issue after budgeting was over in August.
“The time for action is now,” Tot said at the Tuesday night event.
The group on Tuesday also heard from a student who recently graduated from Sumner Academy and is an immigrant.
“I was not allowed into my own high school prom because I could not get ahold of my Mexican passport,” the student told the group.
If the ordinance passes, the lack of an ID will no longer be an issue, and those who live here will be able to own their own homes, open a bank account and register their children at school, she said.
“I will no longer have to be embarrassed when I am asked for an ID,” she said. “We don’t need to live with fear in our communities.”
A campaign issue
The municipal ID issue was discussed at a candidate forum Aug. 5, 2019, at Kansas City Kansas Community College (http://www.wyandottedaily.com/ug-commission-contests-on-tuesday-include-some-rematches/). Several UG positions are up for election on Nov. 5.
At that forum, incumbent Commissioner Harold Johnson, 4th District, said he supported the municipal ID program. Incumbent Commissioner Melissa Bynum, 1st District at large, said the idea of municipal identification cards could be useful here in Wyandotte County, and potentially benefit different populations, including senior citizens. She still had some questions about the ID program, she said at the forum, and would need assurance from other institutions that they would recognize it as a valid form of identification if the UG leads an effort to develop it.
In 2017, the municipal ID idea was opposed by some local residents who said it would be an expensive program that should not receive taxpayer funds. (See http://www.wyandottedaily.com/letter-to-the-editor-municipal-id/)
While all the UG Commission meetings on Thursdays are open to the public, as a usual rule the public may speak only when there is a public hearing scheduled on a particular topic, and it is up to the mayor to put items on the agenda. The next UG meeting on a Thursday is Oct. 17 at City Hall.
Local resident J.D. Rios, a former member of the Kansas City Kansas Community College Board of Trustees who ran for UG commissioner in a previous election and who supports efforts to help immigrants, attended the Tuesday night meeting and was asked what he thought about the chances this issue would have to move forward at the UG Commission level.
“Not until after the elections,” Rios responded.
To see an earlier story on this issue, visit http://www.wyandottedaily.com/municipal-id-effort-launched-in-kck/.