Editors note: Some interviews for this piece were conducted in Spanish and have been translated into English.
Holding signs that replicated a municipal ID, about 50 protesters marched down the streets of downtown Kansas City, Kansas, advocating for the Unified Government to pass Safe & Welcoming ordinance.
The protesters marched down the streets on Friday evening, chanting “say it loud, say it clear, immigrants are welcome here” and “show me what community looks like, this is what community looks like.”
The Safe & Welcoming ordinance would create a municipal ID for the 30,000 residents of Wyandotte County who don’t have photo identification. The ordinance would allow people who can’t get IDs — like homeless people, foster children and undocumented immigrants — to get IDs that would help them get library cards, open bank accounts, enroll children in school and several other things. The ordinance also includes a second provision which would bar local authorities from helping Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The municipal ID ordinance would be similar to ones in cities such as Detroit, Little Rock, Arkansas, and Philadelphia. “The card helps create a more welcoming Philadelphia that embraces everyone who lives here,” the city says.
After marching down streets, the protesters gathered in front of city hall where speakers took turns speaking on why the Unified Government should pass the ordinance.
Mayor David Alvey has not brought the ordinance up for a vote for the Unified Government. Three commissioners with the Unified Government, Melissa Bynum, Harold Johnson and Christian Ramirez have come out in support of the ordinance. So has district attorney Mark Dupree and the Kansas City, Kansas Public School District school board.
“You heard testimony today that houseless individuals have trouble even getting birth certificates, so a municipal ID would be step one to identify someone,” said Karla Juarez, executive director of Advocates for Immigrants Rights and Reconciliation. “It’s a very inclusive ordinance and that’s why it’s important in a very diverse community.”
John Williams was one of the speakers. He’s been houseless throughout different moments of his life and said it’s hard for him to get an ID.
“We need the IDs really bad y’all,” Williams said. “We’re homeless and the government people out here, they don’t want to help us do nothing.”
The ordinance is likely to play a factor in the mayoral election in Wyandotte County. Alvey seeks a second term in office. His challenger, former Kansas City, Kansas Police Department official Tyrone Garner supports the ordinance.
Yazmin Bruno, who is a DACA recepient, remembers when she was growing up there were activities she was excluded from because she didn’t have any legal documents.
“I wasn’t the only one, my parents were also going through the same thing, and all for being undocumented, for being immigrants in this country,” Bruno said. “And it’s time for (Unified Government) to do something for us because we contribute so much to this country — we contribute so much to this community.”