City officials in Los Angeles are studying the idea of permitting library cards to be used to open accounts at banks and gain access to various city services for illegal immigrants, according to a published report.
Should the city move forward with the idea, it would join the ranks of U.S. cities that provide assorted identification forms to undocumented workers who are unable to acquire drivers' licenses because they are illegal immigrants, The Los Angeles Times reports. All members of the Los Angeles City Council recently voted up consideration of the proposal.
Los Angeles has roughly 300,000 residents who are not owners of bank accounts or debit cards, according to estimates.
The city's public libraries would issue the identification cards, which would have the user's name, address and a picture. A private vendor would join the partnership and arrange bank accounts for those who desire using the library identification card as a debit card as well. Financial institutions typically mandate a form of official identification in order to open a bank account.
Richard Alacorn, the councilman who proposed the idea, said any person who is able to provide proof demonstrating that they live in Los Angeles is eligible to acquire the library card.
The banking services to which card bearers would have access include direct deposit of their paychecks, money transfers within the nation and throughout the globe, and debiting, the councilman said.
The proposal also represents a chance to stave off unsavory acts toward individuals who do not have bank accounts.
Many immigrants who do not save money at the bank are ripped off by payday lenders, he said. Others are robbed if they hold their money on their person.
"They can be scammed and taken advantage of," Alarcon said. "This will help end that."
The identification cards would not take the place of driver's license nor would it stave off efforts by the federal government to deport the illegal immigrants. Applications for the cards could cost as much as $20 and they could access the money at ATMs.
Alacorn said that the card would enhance the bearer's financial know-how.
"We test students all the time on academic ability," he said. "But we don't determine if they are capable of handling their financial affairs. The foreclosure crisis demonstrated that there are a lot of people who are not."
The Board of Supervisors in San Francisco approved an ordinance in November 2007 to distribute the SF City ID Card, which was released in January 2009, according to the San Francisco city web site.