Lawyers’ Committee Testifies in Support of Boston’s Municipal ID

On October 27, 2016, Attorney Sophia Hall of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice testified in the Boston City Council in support of creating a “Boston OneCard” Municipal ID. The testimony appears below.

Testimony in Support of Boston OneCard

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice is a legal organization that safeguards civil, social, and economic liberties in Massachusetts. We respectfully submit this testimony in strong support of creating a “Boston OneCard.” The Boston OneCard will foster community inclusion, expand economic opportunities, and strengthen public safety for all residents.

Many Bostonians are excluded from city services and economic opportunities because they lack formal photo identification. An ID is required to open a bank account, to apply for a job, and to access many public facilities and private buildings. As New York, San Francisco and New Haven have found, a municipal identification card is a practical and manageable tool that can help close the opportunity gap. It will help all Boston residents to fully and meaningfully participate in our society and economy. This is particularly important for residents who are vulnerable due to their age, immigration status, gender identity or homelessness. An accessible municipal identification card sends a powerful message of inclusion to all residents, particularly to those without traditional identification such as a driver’s license or passport.

The Boston OneCard can also strengthen public safety. The Boston OneCard can be a powerful tool to bridge the growing distrust between police and vulnerable populations. Cardholders would feel more comfortable interacting with police and, thus, more likely to seek police protection – this is particularly important for victims of domestic violence. Cardholders would also be more likely to come forward as witnesses to help law enforcement investigate and resolve crimes. This makes all of us – regardless of our immigration status – safer.

When municipal identification card programs were first proposed, some raised concerns regarding the possibility of misuse, fraud or privacy violations. The proven success of similar municipal identification programs in many other cities demonstrate that so long as proper protections are included, these fears are meritless. Other programs have proven to be secure and to withstand legal scrutiny. See Gold v. City of New Haven, No. FIC 2007-605 (CT FOIC July 9, 2008) (landmark ruling upholding privacy rights of cardholders enrolled in the country’s first municipal ID program). The Lawyers’ Committee strongly supports municipal identification programs, and we urge the creation of the “Boston OneCard.”