Legal Victory for Municipal ID Ordinance

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ACLU of Northern CA

San Francisco – This morning, the San Francisco Superior Court dismissed a lawsuit challenging San Francisco's Municipal ID Ordinance, which establishes a program to ensure that members of the San Francisco community are not denied access to police protection and other essential City services because they lack government-issued identification.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Immigrants' Rights Project, ACLU of Northern California, and Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights intervened on behalf of St. Peter's Housing Committee and San Francisco Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center to defend against the challenge to the municipal ID law. Two other community organizations – Transgender Law Center and Coalition on Homelessness – filed an amicus brief in support of the ordinance.

The program makes municipal identification cards available to anyone who is able to prove their identity and fifteen days' presence in the City, and does not require proof of immigration status. The card may also function as an all-in-one public transportation pass, library card, resident golf card, and parking meter card.

"The municipal ID program is a modest public safety measure, meant to ensure that all San Franciscans have access to services and police protection,"explained ACLU of Northern California staff attorney Julia Harumi Mass. "Our clients are organizations whose members – as youth, homeless people, immigrants, and transgender San Franciscans – face particular obstacles to obtaining identification cards. Access to ID cards is important for all San Francisco residents to feel comfortable reporting crime and standing up for their rights."

The lawsuit alleged that, because undocumented immigrants would be eligible for the municipal IDs, the program violated the federal immigration laws. The California court rejected all of the claims in the case, concluding that San Francisco's ID program has no impact on federal immigration status, does not conflict with federal immigration law, and does not provide any benefits that are not otherwise available to City residents.

"The Court's ruling sends a message that cities do not violate the immigration laws by enacting immigration status-neutral programs for the benefit of all of their community members," said Jennifer Chang Newell, staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project.

Philip Hwang, staff attorney for the Lawyers' Committee, added, "This ruling provides important encouragement for other cities and counties who are interested in starting their own municipal ID programs."

St. Peter's Housing Committee is a local nonprofit organization whose mission is to work on behalf of tenants for increased justice in housing, and has lobbied for effective implementation of the Ordinance.

The San Francisco Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center seeks to serve, empower, and bring together members of the San Francisco LGBT community. The Center intervened on behalf of its transgender members, who would benefit from San Francisco's gender-neutral ID card program, as well as its youth members.

Other attorneys who worked on the case included Robert Rubin and Nira Geevargis of the Lawyers' Committee, Alan Schlosser of the ACLU of Northern California, and Eunice Lee of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project.

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