Inspired by Mayor Steven Fulop’s promise to protect immigrants from possible intimidation by federal immigration agents, the City Council introduced an ordinance at its April 12 meeting that will create a city-based identification system.
The ordinance would establish the Office of Welcoming Community and the Jersey City Municipal Identification Card Program to help people who might otherwise have trouble proving who they are. This could include immigrants and the homeless, some of whom could be detained because they cannot otherwise show identification.
A similar program recently launched in Union City, which, like Jersey City, has considered itself a Sanctuary City.
City officials said individuals who lack identification often face other obstacles, such being unable to open a bank account.
The card is designed to help homeless, immigrants, the formerly incarcerated, transgender people, senior citizens, and even younger people.
“The intention is to build Jersey City’s standing as a welcoming and inclusive center for all residents, without regard to a person’s race, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability or immigration, housing, or financial status,” the ordinance says.
The identification would allow residents of Jersey City access to a number of cultural, educational, and civic opportunities.
“This also fits in with what Mayor Fulop wanted when he established Jersey City as a sanctuary city.” – Pamela Andes
Pamela Andes, along with Yalenny Vargas of the Office of Welcoming Community, said during a caucus presentation on April 10 that the card would also allow cardholders to get discounts from participating merchants other features. Those applying for the card would need to prove they are Jersey City residents and provide documentation, such as a passport from any country, and satisfy a six point system similar to the system used for obtaining a driver’s license. Those proofs would include a passport, local utility bill, credit card bill, all of which carry various points toward verification.
“This will allow everyone to have an I.D,” Andes said. “This will allow people access to any public resource.”
This card could be used to obtain a library card, use recreational programs, and possibly open a bank account.
Vargas said the city is negotiating with banks to make this last feature possible.
“This also fits in with what Mayor Fulop wanted when he established Jersey City as a sanctuary city,” Andes said.
Council member Joyce Watterman raised the concern that applying for a card could put some undocumented immigrants at risk of being pursued by creating a database the federal government might use.
But Vargas said the city will keep no records. People will show their proofs and will be issued a card that will expire after two years, at which time the person would need to bring proof back to the office to obtain a renewal.
“There will be a number on the card,” Vargas said. “But we will have no data collection.”
The card will be available to anyone 14 or older and there will be a two tier fee system, $10 for those 14 to 18; $15 for those older than 18.
If a person is homeless, the fee will be waived.
The card would also contain a security feature that would keep it from being illegally duplicated, Andes said.
The card cannot be used to vote or as a replacement for ID’s required by other government entities.
Parking enforcement a problem
Members of the City Council learned at the April 10 caucus meeting that Jersey City doesn’t have the manpower or equipment to provide 24-hour enforcement for residential parking. The establishment of a strict residential parking program in Union City has resulted in a flood of cars parking in Jersey City Heights.
Hearing comments from the public at the April 12 regular meeting, the City Council voted unanimously to modify the ordinance to create “a sunrise clause” that would allow them to implement the stricter parking provisions, but these would not go into effect until May 1, 2018.
This would allow the city to install new signage throughout the Heights, hire new staff and buy new equipment.
Councilman Michael Yun said neighborhood and park associations have petitioned him to introduce an ordinance that would establish 24-hour enforcement, in a resolution similar to one he opposed for downtown last year.
In 2016, Downtown Council member Candice Osborne attempted to increase the hours for residential parking to extend it from the current cut off at 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. This, she said, would force people in downtown high rise apartments to park in the indoor facilities they already have rather than on the street.
At the time, however, Yun voted against it. Osborne has since withdrawn her proposal, saying she will develop a more comprehensive parking plan for downtown.
But city parking officials told the council that the city doesn’t have manpower or equipment to enforce expanded residential parking and that will take a hefty investment in equipment and new personnel to accomplish it. The department’s vehicles range in age from 1996 to 2008, and the current staff cannot handle an 11 p.m. deadline.
The council would need to reinvest serious money into the parking bureau in order to increase the hours. While the fines generated would more than pay back the cost, the initial outlay would be substantial officials, said.
New parking ticket devices will save time and money
In a related matter, the council plans to invest in new ticket-writing technology, some of which are already in use. The technology would automatically create printed tickets as the details are typed into a handheld device. This would allow for an electronic record rather than traditional written tickets, many of which are dismissed because they cannot be read easily when challenged in court. Officials said the new devices could also do away with data entry, which has clerks retyping information from copies of handwritten tickets.
Last year, which officials said ticket volume was below average, the city generated $964,000 in parking fines.
A new company is going to provide the service under a new contract for a rate nearly half the cost of the previous cost per ticket issued.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.