A local non-profit, Justicia Sin Fronteras, or Justice Without Borders, gathered at the Elkhart Public Library Saturday to kick off an effort to establish a Community ID card program for city residents that could be used in place of state IDs to verify a holder's identity and address.
Justice Without Borders is working with South Bend’s La Casa de Amistad, to develop cards similar to those currently used in South Bend and in Goshen. The South Bend cards are modeled not to look like state IDs, but the process of obtaining them is similar to obtaining a state ID, including proof of residence and legal name.
Justice Without Borders organizer Paty Gorostieta said the cards are not only a want in the community, but they are a need. Valid IDs are necessary for day to day functions like picking up prescriptions, to being able to enter school functions during the day.
“You have to have an ID to have lunch at school with your kids,” Gorostieta said, “and not everyone has an ID for a lot of different reasons.”
4th District Councilman Dwight Fish said this is also a safety issue. He said the ID cards would be one way to help residents feel safe interacting with police.
Fish said people feel apprehensive about reporting crimes when they feel like they’re going to get asked for identification and subsequently get in trouble for not having identification. Fish said the cards benefit everyone, not just Latinos.
The advocacy group is currently working to gather signatures of support from businesses and residents, which they’ll present to the City Council and Mayor Tim Neese.
In a statement, Neese says quote- the issuance of government identification cards should be consistent statewide and should not vary from municipality to municipality.
Community IDs are not meant to substitute state IDs or licenses, and can’t be used to vote, drive or to travel by plane.