Three and a half years after the county commission told the mayor to prepare a report, Carlos Gimenez has finally produced a study on the feasibility of starting a county ID program -- a major help for several vulnerable groups that don't have other kinds of government-issued IDs.
Many cities around the country already have such programs -- including San Francisco, New York, Detroit and Chicago.
PACT Miami -- People Acting for Community Together -- has been pushing hard for the program for several years as a way to solve a crucial immigration issue. PACT represents 40 churches, synagogues and mosques that have banded together to deal with major local issues under the slogan "let justice roll." This reporter is an active member of PACT.
The 16-page mayoral report cites advantages and disadvantages of the program. In a letter to county commissioners, Mayor Gimenez writes: "A local card program could ... alleviate barriers for several vulnerable and disadvantaged populations, including immigrants, homeless, seniors and formerly incarcerated individuals."
The report estimates that 55,000 Dade residents are "unauthorized and undocumented" and without an ID they have many barriers to routine activities that "range from retrieving a package from the post office to accessing health services."
The heavily footnoted report states there are about "450,000 undocumented immigrants in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach area who contribute more than $437.4 million in taxes. Because many immigrants work in a cash economy and are unable to open bank accounts without government issued identification, they become vulnerable to theft," and they often are afraid to report crimes.
The report cited negatives and pitfalls, including undocumented persons being put on a registry that could be used by law enforcement. The report estimates that an initial start-up costs for the program county-wide would be $2.5 million, plus $220,000 per year vendor costs.
This feasibility study has been repeatedly delayed. It was originally supposed to be done in 2016. Later, it was promised for Sept. 14, 2018. That was delayed again to Jan. 10, 2019. That deadline too passed.
On Monday, April 1, PACT held its annual Nehemiah Action Assembly, in which about 1500 members of religious and university groups gathered together to ask local elected officials to commit to issues regarding immigration, affordable housing and gun violence.
On immigration, PACT, tired of waiting for the feasibility study, set a more direct goal: "Secure a commitment from county officials to make municipal ID program a reality. We want the municipal ID program to come to fruition by 2020."
Only two county commissioners attended the event. Daniella Levine Cava and Eileen Higgins both committed to the PACT goals for affordable housing, but they both hesitated on the ID program because they hadn't seen the feasibility study.
The next day, Tuesday, April 2, the mayor released the long-delayed report.
PACT had repeatedly asked Gimenez to attend the event. He refused. County commissioner Xavier Suarez had committed to attending, but didn't show up.