After several years of effort on the part of Northfield community organizers, on June 4, 2018 Northfield became the first city in Minnesota to issue a city ID – an alternate form of identification which allows residents to access city programs and services without needing a drivers license.
While useful for all residents, the IDs are especially beneficial for undocumented residents and members of the LGBTQ+ community – two groups commonly denied access to accurate forms of identification.
The introduction of the municipal ID comes at a tumultuous time for undocumented residents of Northfield. The recent presence of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and their detention of one person have increased anxiety in the undocumented community.
Unanimously passed in December 2017, Ordinance 994 allowed for the first city IDs to be issued by the Northfield Public Library the following June.
These IDs support the LGBTQ+ community by providing a way for transgender persons to obtain an ID with their correct gender marker and name, Revmira Beeby ’22, former youth liaison to the Northfield Human Rights Commission (HRC), said.
The city ID is also important for undocumented community members, allowing them not only greater economic and civic access to their community but also providing a means to prove residency, Northfield HRC secretary Angelique Dietz said. Despite this recent step forward, undocumented Northfield residents continue to face struggles that accompany their citizenship status.
ICE detained one person in Northfield on Feb. 28, according to a message Dietz received.
“People live in a perpetual state of fear,” Dietz said. “It is important for Northfielders to be reminded that this stuff happens in communities like ours and perhaps to people we know.”
Monte Nelson, Chief of the Northfield Police Department (NPD), confirmed via email that ICE agents were in Northfield looking for several targeted individuals and detained one person. NPD officers did not assist the agents, but they did respond to the area, speaking to ICE agents and a concerned resident. Similar events occurred on Aug. 23 and 24, 2018 when ICE detained one Northfield resident, according to the Northfield News.
It will be important for all Northfield community members to get the ID – even if they already have a state ID or passport – so that the list of city ID-holders is not just a list of vulnerable community members, Beeby and Dietz said. Adopting a city ID program helps to meet the HRC’s goals for greater diversity, equity and inclusion in order to become “a community that welcomes all.”
Tabling will occur on March 7 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Buntrock Commons Crossroads so that St. Olaf students can sign up for a city ID. Students only need to bring their student ID card to prove residency. The HRC plans to repeat this event every year at both St. Olaf and Carleton.
The next step is to convince other cities to create city ID programs.
“The more cities that adopt these, the more it comes to be viewed as an official ID and the more official institutions will accept it,” Beeby said.
Minneapolis is in the process of implementing a similar municipal identification program “to ensure equitable access to services, programs, and benefits,” according to minneapolismn.gov. Over 20 U.S. cities or counties, including Milwaukee and Detroit, have instituted city ID programs.