Home > Uncategorized > Get a New York ID Card #Resist

Get a New York ID Card #Resist

January 30, 2017

This is a guest post by Elizabeth Hutchinson, an Associate Professor of Art History at Barnard College/Columbia University who supports social justice initiatives at work and in her community.  She is also a yarn whisperer who likes nothing better than knitting with Mathbabe.


If you are a regular reader of Mathbabe, you may already be putting your time, money and intellectual labor to work in support of organizations that defend the rights of vulnerable groups and our vulnerable environment (#BlackLivesMatter, Make the Road New York, Planned Parenthood, SURJ, 350.org, NYCStandswithStandingRock, and many others).

But if you are a New York City resident, here’s another practical thing you can do: apply for an ID NYC card.



ID NYC is a program established by the de Blasio administration in 2014 that allows city residents to obtain a photo identification without requiring the same government-generated documents required for a drivers license or passport. These residents then have a municipal ID that can help them open bank accounts, apply for library cards and gain access to other services as well as free membership to a range of NYC cultural institutions like the Museum of Modern Art.



In lieu of a Social Security card or equivalent document, applicants for the ID NYC could use non-U.S. government-generated forms of identification, including, among other things, a combination of a utility bill verifying a local address and a foreign passport or consular identification.

Even if you have a photo ID and a library card, here’s why you should get an ID NYC: this program is widely used by the undocumented immigrants in our midst, and the records of their applications are vulnerable to seizure by federal government authorities charged with expanding the pursuit of both undocumented and documented immigrants.

How is this so, you might ask, knowing that New York is a sanctuary city? Well, it is true that New York is committed to not aiding Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in a number of ways. For example, it has pledged not to use its city precincts or jails to house immigrants detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (though it does cooperate when ICE requests individuals already in NYC custody who were convicted of a serious felony) and to not share city agency information with federal immigration authorities.


Sanctuary Cities according to this site. For a more complete list click here.


The ID NYC program was set up to be in line with this stance: the law establishing the program ordered that the copies of documents used in applying for the ID be destroyed at the end of the first two years, or in December 2016, in the meantime only sharing them with law enforcement only through judicial subpoena (something that happened only a handful of times). However,  a case brought by Republican members of the State Assembly from Staten Island in December resulted in a ruling that all records be retained indefinitely.

After Trump’s election, Mayor de Blasio pledged to change the record keeping system and stop retaining copies of the applicants’ documents beginning in 2017. However, the city will continue to retain significant information about applicants, including their name, gender, address, birthdate, and the photo taken when the id was made.

The ID NYC program DOES NOT ask applicants about their immigration status. Nevertheless, because this program is well used by members of New York’s immigrant communities (according to the Gothamist, over a third of NYC residents are foreign-born), these applications could be used for fishing expeditions looking for our undocumented neighbors.

Yes, the Mayor has pledged to fight to keep this paperwork private. But we can’t be sure how the courts will act when push comes to shove.

The solution? Gum up the works.



Blast the program with lots and lots of applications from NYC residents so that any authority that does manage to subpoena applications has an immense archive to wade through. Estimates suggest that about 1 million people have applied for ID NYC to date. That leaves about 6.8 million New Yorkers who still can. (Yes, kids can apply, too, as long as they are 14.)

Applying is easy, though it will take you a little time. You start by making an appointment at one of the 25 enrollment centers. There’s a form to fill out (applications are available in more than 25 languages), that you can do ahead of time and print out or fill out when you get there. Bring along your documents. Once you check in, you wait for an agent to go over the application and take your picture and then you can arrange to receive the id in the mail or pick it up. I got mine at the Mid-Manhattan Library. I made the appointment about a month ahead of time, though there were appointments sooner, and waited less than an hour to see the agent. It was about as much hassle as mailing a package at the post office.


Maybe this isn’t the most effective form of resistance, but it is an easy one that may do some good.

I look forward to seeing you in the streets. And the public library. And MoMA.




To report incidents of discrimination or hate

  • The Governor’s Office – 1-888-392-3644
  • The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs 311 or 212-788-7654. Translation is available. You can also go to www1.nyc.gov for many other resources for NYC immigrants.

Additional Resources

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. January 30, 2017 at 7:17 am

    Reblogged this on O LADO ESCURO DA LUA.


  2. Mike
    January 30, 2017 at 1:13 pm

    That’s a picture of a the old New York State non-Drivers ID card issued by the NYS DMV.

    An New York City ID card looks very different: http://jpupdates.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/NYC-ID-Card-569×360.jpg.


  3. David Wallace
    January 31, 2017 at 6:04 pm

    As you say, it may do some good, but I wonder how hard it really would be for them to de-gum the list to the point of making it useful again, if they had it in machine-readable form. For example, they could take a list of the 1000 most common NYC surnames, strike out any that originate from the target countries, and then filter out anyone with one of the remaining surnames as a false alarm. They don’t need to get it perfect. They just need to have a high enough percentage of undocumented individuals in the residual list that remains that it justifies them going through the remaining entries manually.


    • February 2, 2017 at 1:28 am

      Indeed, I’m likewise highly skeptical. “Because computers” is a pretty solid counterargument here.


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