by Liz Ibarrola and Veronica Robleto Human Rights Coalition of Alachua County
A community ID is a pocket-sized example of how small innovations can have enormous impacts.
Identification is an essential tool, unlocking access to fundamental resources like education, housing, and banking. Local IDs not only fill a gap overlooked by government-issued identification programs, but work to dismantle the systemic barriers which produce and reinforce marginalization.
Community IDs, like the ones we at the Human Rights Coalition of Alachua County issue, use the strength of local relationships to positively impact the outcome of larger issues, but are being targeted by dangerous anti-immigrant narratives and legislation.
SB 1718, which went into effect July 1, is sowing fear and confusion. It is based on the lie that immigrants are a drain to our economy and healthcare system, which it is scaring people away from their jobs and from vital healthcare services.
In addition, community IDs have been swept up alongside every other program which serves or is connected to undocumented immigrants.
Since the passing of SB1718, it is illegal for municipal and county governments to fund organizations that issue community IDs to anyone who cannot prove that they entered the country legally. Community IDs have been directly targeted by this baseless attack on immigrants, which we believe speaks to the power and tangible impact IDs can make.
The idea for the HRC Community ID originally came from Madres Sin Fronteras (MSF), an immigrants’ rights group within our coalition. As undocumented parents, MSF members sought a reliable way to identify themselves, but particularly at their children’s schools and in interactions with law-enforcement. In a pivotal moment, a mother from MSF went to pick up her second grader to attend a dentist appointment but was denied access because her Honduran passport was rejected by the school.
State-issued identification is inaccessible to many in our community. Undocumented immigrants lack the necessary paperwork. Lower income and elderly neighbors face similar document shortfalls and limited technological capacity. For those recently released from incarceration the cost of identification is prohibitive and those facing homelessness have the extra barrier of proving where they live. Trans neighbors may be able to access identification, but not a form that reflects their preferred name or current appearance. Without identification, the most vulnerable in our communities are disconnected and their concerns obscured.
With identification, however, people are connected to resources and their needs made explicit. With an HRC ID a person eligible for emergency housing can be approved and placed in housing; an undocumented immigrant can open a bank account and safely store their paycheck; a trans person can interact more confidently and securely with law enforcement; and a single mom can identify herself as a county resident to the local food bank.
The HRCAC grew out of a 2017 meeting of the Interfaith Alliance for Immigration Justice in Gainesville. Rumors of an ICE raid had spread, and we gathered to address the fallout. That meeting led to the establishment of a sanctuary church, then the Sanctuary Coalition, and finally the Human Rights Coalition.
We coalesced around a desire for tangible work that did more than spread awareness and ultimately developed the very first community ID program in Florida.
Although we were the first in the state, we are now joined by community ID programs in West Palm Beach, Miami-Dade County, and Broward County. Together the programs serve thousands of people in Florida each year, enabling them to access healthcare, housing, banking, education, and more. All of the programs have been affected by this dangerous legislation and are figuring out how to stay operational.
Our program is run primarily by volunteers (we didn’t pay our first staff member until 4 years in), and both our paid staff and volunteers came to us through their involvement in other community projects.
As our ID program director and legal navigator, I bring 10 years of experience as a paralegal working on immigration, wage theft and human trafficking cases. I’ve made lasting partnerships with prominent advocates, organizations and service providers in our area and developed an expertise in trauma-informed care.
Besides the HRC ID program, we also offer legal navigation and accompaniment services, aiding immigrants in navigating the criminal and immigration legal systems, informing them of their legal rights and responsibilities, aiding them in locating detained family members or peers, providing family safety planning against the threat of deportation, as well as consulting with partner organizations and services to facilitate referrals, and follow up with basic needs.
The HRC Community ID is an alternate means of identification, only useful because of the relationships which underlie it. The wide range of accepting entities, from the Gainesville Police Department to the UF Shands Teaching Hospital, have been established through years of collaborative work, and the many relationships which our volunteers, and now paid staff members, have brought with them over that time.
Community IDs are transformative and we have had the privilege of witnessing the real life effects they have every day.
We serve all kinds of people, but a large part of the community we serve are undocumented immigrants—your friends and neighbors who work tirelessly every day for their families and community. They are the people who build your houses, pick your fruit and veggies, cook your food and care for your elders.
We believe migration is a human right and our immigration system is cruel and unjust leaving many neighbors as collateral damage.
We know that many within our community stand with us and their immigrant neighbors. We are turning to you for support during this setback and have launched a fundraising campaign to fill the gap of local government funds lost due to SB 1718.
Every single dollar counts, and keeps our programs running. Join us today in transforming Alachua County, creating safety and equity within our community.
Donate at tinyurl.com/Iguana1714 or you can send a check to: Human Rights Coalition of Alachua County, 1521 NW 34th St, Gainesville, FL 32605.