Municipal ID Cards: a new form of citizenship

C-MISE hosted a webinar on municipal ID cards on 24 February 2023, involving representatives from New York and Montreal, as well as several European cities. The webinar followed the conversation that took place at the ANVITA conference in Lisbon in January. By convening cities to discuss the topic, C-MISE’s event directly addressed one of the recommendations in Alliance Migrations’ joint action plan. Municipal ID cards can reinforce the feeling of belonging in a city, making it inclusive for all its inhabitants. They can enable also help undocumented migrants be recognised by city officials, granting them access to different services to facilitate daily life. In turn, they promote an alternative vision of citizenship.

For irregular migrants, the inability to provide proof of identity affects nearly every aspect of their lives. Municipal ID cards, however, can enhance social integration, bridge the official identification gap and enable access to otherwise inaccessible services.

The webinar made possible an exchange of information regarding the experiences and ongoing challenges faced by different cities across the two continents when it comes to developing municipal ID cards for irregular migrants.

At the webinar, ANVITA presented a typology of Municipal ID cards. First, they introduced census and administrative registration cards. These are tools that promote inclusive citizenship. They make it possible to recognise the presence and legitimacy of everyone in a territory, which is an essential prerequisite for citizenship. Second, they considered local ID cards for specific audiences. These cards aim to offer social services to people affected by situations of vulnerability and precariousness. Sometimes, they seek to use municipal competencies to compensate for the shortcomings of national social or integration policies that are deemed insufficient and non-inclusive. Third, they described inclusive local citizenship cards. These are cards that are designed for specific schemes in which the notions of residence, right to the city, solidarity and inclusiveness are intertwined. They have multiple objectives: to improve access to rights and services for all; to fight against discrimination; to strengthen public security and crime detection; and to guarantee links of trust between users and local services. Local citizenship cards, then, help to create a sense of belonging to the city through the promotion of local citizenship.

The exchange between the cities also touched on the challenges faced by some municipalities regarding how to create broader community and political buy-in and how to develop functionality for Municipal ID Cards that go beyond identification. Such buy-in can ensure that they deliver the maximum utility for the residents who would benefit from them the most and not just become de facto proof of the ID holder’s immigration status.

Technical issues concerning qualifying criteria and the temporal and geographical extent of such cards were also discussed, raising a multitude of potential questions, such as whether such a card could be used in more than one city.

There was agreement that issuing ID cards is a big step which municipalities can take to protect their residents, particularly undocumented populations, both safeguarding the rights of the most vulnerable and providing a boost to local economies.
Future C-MISE meetings will be organised to continue this discussion, involving a larger number of the network’s cities.