New Haven Marks Fifth Anniversary of Elm City Resident Card
(7/24/2012) Mayor John DeStefano Jr., elected officials, immigration advocates and New Haven residents gathered at City Hall Tuesday to mark the fifth year anniversary of the Elm City Resident Card, reflecting on the history of the card and affirming a commitment to continuing and growing this important program.
Five years ago, New Haven became the first municipality in the nation to offer identification cards to all residents regardless of immigration status. For many, the card served as the only available government identification to prove residency when seeking services, interacting with police, and opening bank accounts.
At the time, outside groups used the card as a platform for hate and ignorance, and Fair Haven residents were the subject of retaliatory raids by federal immigration agents seeking to undermine the community and the inclusive message of the card. But New Haven residents would not be bullied. Since then, more than 10,000 cards have been issued, enabling card holders to access basic government services, apply for jobs, access financial services and more. Card holders have reported using the card to open bank accounts, cash checks, obtain employment, verify identity for credit card purchases, access public transit, interact with utility companies, access food pantries, apply for bus passes, and even to obtain a Costco membership. In the past year and a half, 60 people have used the card as primary identification to open bank accounts at Start Community Bank.
“Five years ago today, we made a statement to ourselves and the world about what it means to be an open and welcoming community. We chose to define ourselves not by failed federal immigration policies, but instead by the common sense realities we experience every day. We are residents of this community because we live here, work here, shop here, send our children to school here, worship here, and pay our taxes here. That statement is as true today as it was five years ago. This anniversary is an opportunity to reaffirm that. This is an opportunity to recognize that we are made better when we see our strengths in one another and reject the fear and barriers some self-interested individuals seek to create. This is an important program and an important message and I am proud to see it continue,” said Mayor John DeStefano Jr.
While crime has dropped by double digits in Fair Haven, crime reporting there has increased substantially, and the card has helped foster positive relationships between New Haven residents and the police department. "The New Haven Resident Card has been very helpful from a law enforcement perspective. Since the card was introduced, crime reporting has increased in Fair Haven, yet there were double-digit drops in every category of crime. Overall, the card has improved interactions between police and undocumented residents, and has played an important role in building relationships and respect,” said Assistant Chief of Police Luiz Casanova.
Perhaps the least tangible yet most important accomplishment, card holders have reported that the card has helped foster a connection to the community, and has helped build and define New Haven’s identity as an open and welcoming City. "The Elm City Resident Card program has helped build a sense of community. It is so important to New Haven residents and must continue. With the card, residents regardless of immigration status feel like they are a part of this city. They feel safer, and are more likely to get involved in the community,” said Fair Haven Alderwoman Migdalia Castro.
“Through the ID card program, New Haven accomplished two major goals. At the local level, it helped new residents, including immigrants integrate into the life of the city. At the national level, it was and continues to be a shining example of what municipalities can and should do in the absence of immigration reform: welcome new residents, recognize their humanity and help them succeed,” said Kica Matos, New Haven immigration activist former City Community Services Administrator.
The City remains committed to offering the card, expanding services, and continuing to reach new residents about the importance and value of the card. The City is marking this anniversary with a week of events and conversations about the past, present and future of this important program. The Health Department Mobile Van Unit will be stationed at each event to issue cards and offer assistance with HUSKY and Medicaid. Events include:
• Tuesday, July 24 through Saturday, July 28: “My City, My Card” photo exhibit at City Hall.
• Tuesday, July 24 through Saturday, July 28: Elm City Resident Card holders will enjoy discounts and a $25 prix fixe menu at select New Haven restaurants. Restaurants include Adriana’s Bar and Grill, Barcelona Wine Bar, Basta Trattoria, Bentara, Claire’s Corner Copia, Geronimo, Oaxaca Kitchen, Olde School Saloon & Bistro, Soul de Cuba and Zinc.
• Thursday, July 26, 5:30 p.m., Panel Discussion at the New Haven Free Public Library on the Past, Present and Future of the card with Frank Sharry, Executive Director and Founder of America’s Voice, Kica Matos, New Haven immigration activist and former City Community Services Administrator, DREAM Act activist Hafid Dument, and State Rep. Roland Lemar.
• Saturday, July 28, noon, 191st Anniversary of Peruvian Independence celebration on the New Haven Green.
For flyers and more information about the week’s events, visit the City’s Facebook Page at facebook.com/cityofnewhaven or the Mayor’s page at facebook.com/mayordestefano
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