RICHMOND -- Since moving to this city from her native Mexico 15 years ago, Gloria Munguia has raised six children and established a network of friends, but has had no way of proving that she lives here.

Without government-issued photo identification, Munguia, an undocumented immigrant, cannot borrow a book from the library or cash a check. Last year, she had to plead with a pharmacist to fill her pregnancy medication.

But Munguia and others like her are about to get an assist from the city in the form of a community identification card that will allow residents to open bank accounts and gain access to municipal services regardless of immigration status.

The City Council unanimously endorsed a municipal ID proposal Tuesday, and will vote on a final ordinance July 5.

In recent years, at least five cities have approved these kinds of identification programs. Cards generally include an official photograph and city imprint.

So that it does not become a scarlet letter for illegal immigrants, the card is designed to appeal to all residents by combining access to libraries, pools, public transportation and other services.

Richmond is placing special emphasis on issuing cards to the indigent, transgender people and runaway youth, as well as immigrants.

The Richmond police department is supporting the program on the grounds that it will give mainstream-shy people who fear detection or deportation more confidence about reporting crimes. The city already has a policy forbidding local law enforcement or other officials to assist with immigration enforcement.


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Nearly a third of Richmond's 104,000 residents are immigrants, according to the 2009 American Community Survey. Many do not have legal immigration documents, advocates say.

About 300 residents poured into Civic Center Plaza ahead of Tuesday's meeting and several said that while they themselves had driver's licenses, they support the program as a way to make the community safer for everyone.

Critics, a few of whom spoke before the council Tuesday, argue that the local identity cards will entice illegal immigration and undermine border security.

The cards, which will pay for themselves, do not grant legal residency, driving privileges or the right to work.

About 40 percent of Richmond is now Latino, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

City leaders tabled an ID card proposal in 2008, saying they wanted to wait until after a council election and watch how San Francisco implemented its program.

The San Francisco ID initiative faced its share of legal challenges, but Oakland passed a similar program this fall with little fanfare.

Supporters say the Richmond ordinance shows that the Bay Area is coming together to help fold undocumented immigrants into the fabric of the community. They have pledged to make San Pablo the next stop on the ID bandwagon.

On Tuesday, Munguia watched a band of mariachis play outside of City Hall as little boys swirled underfoot, playing intricate games of tag.

"It makes me feel hopeful, for my children more than anything," she said. "We need to be able to identify ourselves."

Contact Hannah Dreier at 510-262-2787. Follow her at Twitter.com/hannahdreier