The first two community ID programs in the Midwest : organizing, evaluation, and community health in Johnson County, IA and Washtenaw County, mi
The post-9/11 sociopolitical climate has led to an increase in anti-immigrant policies and practices, including the federal REAL ID Act of 2005, which established standards requiring proof of "legal presence" for state identification cards (IDs) and driver's licenses to be used for federal purposes such as air travel. This has led several states to revise their ID eligibility requirements, and undocumented immigrants cannot access state IDs or driver's licenses in any Midwestern state except Illinois (Mathema, 2015; Park, 2015). Lack of photo ID limits access to important resources including bank and check-cashing services, pharmacies, libraries, housing, and police services (Lagunes, Levin, and Ditlmann, 2012). Undocumented parents face additional challenges as IDs may be required to volunteer at children’s schools or pick them up from childcare (de Graauw, 2014). In 2015 two Midwestern counties (Washtenaw County, Michigan and Johnson County, Iowa) became the eighth and ninth U.S. localities to issue ID cards regardless of immigration status. These grassroots initiatives, the first local government-issued ID programs in the Midwest, were spearheaded by local activists and advocates who had witnessed–or experienced firsthand -- the challenges of living without locally accepted IDs. The Washtenaw ID Project and the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa each worked with community members, county officials, and law enforcement with the goal of developing IDs that were accessible, secure from fraud, and widely accepted by area businesses, service providers, and law enforcement. These programs are well suited to the 2016 Cambio de Colores theme, "Building Bridges." Local IDs were designed to serve not only undocumented immigrants but also others that face challenges in accessing ID: the elderly, transgender individuals, individuals with chronic mental illness, residentially unstable individuals, and those displaced by natural disaster or domestic violence. This panel included several perspectives on these innovative programs. Representatives from the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa and the Washtenaw ID Project shared lessons from years of organizing, advocacy, and policy development. They discussed each county's process of identifying the need for local IDs, organizing to promote local ID policies, and implement the ID policies. Both groups worked to promote local IDs widely, including to those with state-issued IDs, so that local IDs were not stigmatized as substandard forms of identification. Researchers from University of Michigan School of Public Health and Social Work and University of Iowa College of Public Health shared findings from a multi-site, mixed-methods longitudinal evaluation of these programs. The objective was to evaluate whether community IDs increased access to community resources. Researchers partnered with the community agencies above to develop and administer surveys to ID applicants on the day they applied for ID (n=407). In Washtenaw County, qualitative interviews on the day of ID application (n=18) provided richer data about applicants’ day-to-day experiences prior to accessing ID. Researchers presented preliminary findings about changes in participants’ day-to-day experiences and access to resources since being issued ID. The panelists concluded with recommendations for designing local ID policies in other communities, including eligibility criteria, administration process and community engagement.