By Darlene McCormick Sanchez
Identification cards for illegal immigrants are increasingly being issued by non-government organizations (NGOs) to help them establish a foothold in U.S. cities and access services they can’t get through federal programs.
The ID cards are often called community IDs and are accepted by police departments, school districts, and food programs in some blue cities nationwide.
Critics say the federal government grants billions of taxpayer funds to NGOs that help illegal immigrants who cannot usually access federal programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
Opponents also argue that ID cards bring illegal aliens closer to residency and voting rights.
“It’s another tool to facilitate their stay here, their residence here,” said Lora Ries, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Border Security and Immigration Center.
Ms. Ries told The Epoch Times that NGOs act as government proxies to receive, transport, shelter, and give legal orientation to illegal immigrants.
“They’ll be able to work here, get bank accounts here, get social services here at taxpayer expense, and stay here longer,” she said. “And to get more downstream benefits, including voting.”
But those who advocate for the IDs say they are part of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion outreach programs that offer humanitarian aid to those seeking asylum.
One such organization is Welcoming America, a nonprofit organization working across the country to set up certified “welcoming cities” similar to sanctuary cities.
The NGO’s website listed 18 “certified welcoming cities” that pay thousands in fees to complete a certification process, according to the website.
Many municipalities are large blue cities, such as Philadelphia, Detroit, Dallas, and Charlotte, North Carolina, with other cities such as Gainesville, Florida, working toward the certification.
Welcoming America has not yet responded to an email from The Epoch Times seeking comment about its programs.
The organization, which has ties to the Obama administration, contends it wants to “change systems and culture” by providing community roadmaps on how to welcome migrants and overcome “implicit and structural bias” in areas such as policing.
The “welcoming city” designation means that “immigrants hold leadership roles” in communities, help shape local policies, are supported in job searches, and assist with access to housing, health care, transportation, financial services, and the justice system, according to the website.
Welcoming America released a statement in November 2022, criticizing Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for sending “people from the Texas border to so-called ‘liberal havens,'” and this September called for Congress to find a solution for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigrants after a federal judge upheld an injunction against it.
Dallas, which is the group’s only certified welcoming city in Texas, proposed to offer community IDs as part of its strategic plan. Still, the policy was never implemented in the red state.
Red State Opposition
In some Republican-controlled legislatures, efforts were made to stop NGOs from issuing IDs.
North Carolina’s legislature introduced House Bill 167 to bar community IDs issued through Faith Action International (FAI) from being accepted by government entities as proof of identification or residency, but it failed to advance.
An FAI website says the Greensboro-based, North Carolina organization has issued 30,000 community identification cards over the past eight years. FAI officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The same FAI-issued ID cards are being used by Gainesville, Florida, which is working toward receiving “welcoming city” status.
However, Florida’s Senate Bill 1718 blocked local and state governments from funding community IDs when it became law this year.
A nonprofit group called the Humanitarian Rights Coalition (HRC) of Alachua County is offering ID cards based on the FAI model.
Veronica Robleto, HRC Alachua County ID program director, said that her organization is raising funds to replace government funding lost due to the new Florida law, which doesn’t prohibit IDs from being issued.
“None of the programs are shutting down. We’ve been very successful in the community, and our community partners and local government all see it as a very valuable tool in the community,” Ms. Robleto told The Epoch Times.
She said concerns that community IDs could lead to non-citizen voting aren’t valid. The IDs help police and help them build trust in undocumented communities where they contribute to the workforce and economy, she added.
The IDs are needed because many crossing the border seeking asylum have their passports and other identifying documents confiscated, making it difficult to receive help or interact with police, Ms. Robleto said.
She said it’s a false narrative that illegal immigration breeds crime, citing a Texas study conducted by the Cato Institute, a left-wing think tank.
In 2018, the illegal immigrant criminal conviction rate was 782 per 100,000 illegal immigrants, 535 per 100,000 legal immigrants, and 1,422 per 100,000 native-born Americans, according to an institute analysis.
Attorney Raemi Eagle-Glenn is a Republican running for Florida’s House District 22, which includes part of Gainesville.
When speaking with The Epoch Times, Ms. Eagle-Glenn said Gainesville’s support of community IDs is allowing “illegal immigrants to hide in plain sight.”
City and county gave funds to nonprofits for community IDs and training law enforcement and officials to accept the IDs, she said.
“Nowhere in their training programs like the ‘Welcoming Blueprint’ do they discuss the safety of domiciled residents, but only the safety and inclusion of illegals,” Ms. Eagle-Glenn said.
“Our country is being invaded by unidentified military-aged men, and I have a concern about the safety of my children in Gainesville,” she said.
Ms. Ries added that illegal immigration has brought additional crime into the country, including some high-profile cases that had devastating consequences on the local level.
In Florida, an illegal immigrant from Honduras lied to border authorities about his identity and age when he entered the country through Texas.
Yery Noel Medina Ulloa was flown to Jacksonville, Florida, where he was later arrested for the stabbing death of a father-of-four who had taken him in.
Ulloa pleaded guilty to second-degree murder this year and was sentenced to 60 years in prison.
“The crime coming in is off the charts. And when you’ve got sanctuary policies and sanctuary cities, then those jurisdictions don’t cooperate with [U.S. Immigration and Customs] law enforcement,” Ms. Ries said.
When contacted for comment by The Epoch Times, Gainesville City spokeswoman Rossana Passaniti referred questions to Robin Lewy, who runs the Rural Women’s Health Project and helps coordinate the Gainesville Immigrant Neighbor Inclusion Initiative.
Ms. Lewy did not immediately respond to questions about the program.
Power in Numbers
John Hostettler is vice president of federal affairs for States Trust, a Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) initiative promoting state-based solutions to restore the principle of American federalism. TPPF is a conservative think tank.
The former congressman, who served as the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims, told The Epoch Times that NGOs and agencies abroad are coordinating with those at home to help illegal immigrants.
One example comes from a 2022 report from the Center for Immigration, a conservative think tank.
The center sent one of its senior fellows to document the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, which receives billions in U.S. taxpayer money, handing out cash debit cards and other funds for lodging and prescription medicines to United States-bound migrants near Tapachula, Mexico.
The center reported that there were many UN stations along the route to the Texas border handing out hundreds of dollars loaded onto cards to keep the line of migrants moving toward the United States.
Mr. Hostettler said that illegal immigrants will likely feel more secure knowing they will have help and identification once they arrive in the United States.
Some states have made it even more attractive to illegals by giving them driver’s licenses, he said.
At least 19 states allow illegal immigrants to receive driver’s licenses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
In some situations, that triggered voter registration applications being sent to the illegal immigrant’s address.
In 2020, news organizations reported that the automatic voter registration system in Illinois allowed hundreds of non-U.S. citizens to register, with 16 casting ballots.
“It was never about safe driving for the states,” Mr. Hostettler said.
Ms. Ries said the end game of the illegal immigrant crisis is political power, even if it doesn’t lead to voting.
She pointed to the U.S. Census battle while President Donald Trump held office in 2020. Left-wing activists successfully kept the question of citizenship off the U.S. Census, meaning that illegals could expand the number of U.S. House seats.
“Anyone who is counted in the U.S. Census is counted towards congressional apportionment, including green card holders, temporary visa holders, and illegal aliens—none of whom should be counted towards congressional apportionment,” Ms. Ries said.