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Northfield to Implement Municipal ID Program

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Beginning next month, the city of Northfield will begin to issue municipal identification (ID) cards. The program follows a 2017 city government ordinance that laid the foundation for the ID program. Northfield was the first city in the state to implement a local ID program, and Minneapolis may soon follow, according to a recent MinnPost article.

“The City recognizes that many residents of the City of Northfield do not have adequate access to recognized forms of identification, and therefore may have difficulty obtaining services in programs and activities from the City and local business,” stated ordinance no. 994.

The program, which will most likely start issuing IDs next month, replicates similar municipal ordinances throughout the country, such as those in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco.

Residents can apply for an ID at the public library, and the equipment to make city government name badges will be used to print the identifications. “We were able to substantially reduce the cost [of] rolling it out by using existing equipment and existing city staff at the library,” said Program Coordinator at the Center for Community and Civic Engagement and City Council member Erica Zweifel.

Northfield residents can use the IDs at various businesses and offices in the town, including the library, some local banks and one of the pharmacies. The ID, however, cannot act as a driver’s license or be used to buy alcohol or tobacco, according to Zweifel. “As an international student, you can leave your ID somewhere safe when you go out you can just carry your municipal ID, instead of having the passport,” said Zweifel, citing another possible usage of the municipal identification.

The program also allows for transgender or gender non-binary community members to choose their gender and their preferred name, unlike some other forms of governmental identification. The three gender options are female, male and gender non-binary, according to the city ordinance.

“Transgender or non-binary people would not be required to list the gender on their birth certificates on the Municipal ID and the elderly or those too young to have a driver’s license could use the ID as well. The variety of people that could use the Municipal ID is one of the program’s strengths; it would help build common ground between Northfield residents from different walks of life,” said a letter of support from the student group Carleton Democratic Socialist of America (CDSA).

The inspiration for this program partially arose from the fight for driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants at the state and the city level. For the past several years, activist groups and local non-profits alike lobbied for a change in legislation. “We tried through state legislative pathways to allow that,” said Zweifel. “So, I feel like even though the municipal ID does not allow people to drive, it feels like that is where it got its start.”

The local organization, Neighbors United, led the campaign for a municipal ID program, according to Zweifel. After being approached by Neighbors United, Carleton students in CDSA assisted the campaign by writing letters and encouraging other members of the Carleton community to get involved, according to Abe Eichner ’18.

While the program has received a lot of support, some are concerned about the consequences of enacting a program which benefits undocumented immigrants. “Are we putting a target on us as a city, if the current administration would have the same feelings about this that they might about declaring oneself a sanctuary city?” asked Zweifel, referring to the Trump administration’s harsh stances on sanctuary cities.

Despite the concerns, according to letter of support from CDSA, “as residents in Northfield, we want to build a sense of community and inclusion in the city. Adopting a Municipal ID for all who live here would be a major step towards that goal. Northfield is harshly segregated along class and racial lines. In particular, many documented and undocumented Latinx immigrants live on the extremities of town, with little access to the resources others in Northfield enjoy.” This ID program will help combat these institutionalized problems, stated the letter.

Students can soon apply for an ID at the public library. To qualify for an ID, community members need a proof residency, such as a bank statement or another form of governmental identification.

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