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El Paso ID Program Aims to Aid Undocumented

A standardized ID would aid the homeless, indigent and help undocumented immigrants prove they qualify for relief from deportation under the president's recently announced executive action, an immigrant rights group says.

An estimated 25,000 demonstrators attended a rally in Dallas to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform on May 1, 2010.

A border immigrant rights group is set to launch efforts Wednesday to create a municipal ID for residents who don't have access to current forms of state identification.

The standardized ID would not only afford the homeless, indigent and disabled access to essential city services, the El Paso-based Border Network for Human Rights argues, but would help undocumented immigrants prove they qualify for relief from deportation under the president's recently announced executive action. 

Under President Obama's plan, certain undocumented immigrants will qualify for a three-year reprieve from removal, and a work permit if they pass a background check and pay fines. Including the undocumented parents of children in the country legally, as many as 533,000 people living in Texas could be affected.

Without some form of ID, “these people may end up being deported even though they qualify for executive action," said Fernando Garcia, executive director of the BNHR. An ID card will help establish that they meet the requirements for relief.

People lacking proper identification are subjected to “civil and constitutional rights abuses, [which] creates an atmosphere of insecurity and reduces chances for prosperity,” the BNHR said in a news release.

Modeling its effort after similar plans underway in New York City, Oakland and Austin, the group will launch a petition drive seeking support to win approval for a city-based ID from the El Paso City Council. Supporters hope the idea will spread to other cities.

The BNHR will launch its petition drive on Wednesday, which is recognized as Human Rights Day by the United Nations.

El Paso city officials were not immediately available for comment, but Garcia said the group's conversations with local leaders have been positive. More than 40,000 residents of the border city may be eligible for the identification, Garcia said.

If created, the ID could also be used to open bank accounts, helping protect day laborers and other workers paid day-to-day from predatory check-cashing agencies that charge high fees, Garcia added.

There will be a fee to get the ID, but Garcia said he isn’t sure what that will be. The BNHR will ask banks and other financial institutions to help keep costs down.

In New York City, the ID cards are used to access local services like transportation and public libraries. They are also a valid form of identification to present to a peace officer, which Garcia said helps promote safety and cooperation with local law enforcement.

The effort comes as Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the incoming Republican governor, pursues a multistate lawsuit against the Obama administration seeking to have the executive action declared illegal.

Abbott claims the administration is abusing its constitutional authority, and said Texas has standing to file suit after being directly affected over the summer by the influx of undocumented immigrants who entered Texas illegally through the Rio Grande Valley. 

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