April 25, 2015
Our View: Simplifying life is one thing; trying to affect immigration law quite another
It speaks volumes that a common-sense idea to reduce bureaucracy was nearly sidetracked by the Phoenix City Council last week. The reason: immigration politics.
City leaders recognize that it doesn't make sense to give residents as many as seven cards to access city services such as transit, libraries, recreation and community centers, senior centers and golf courses. So they were looking at the possibility of creating a unifed ID card.
If it had stopped there, we likely wouldn't be commenting on a 9-0 vote to move forward. That would have been a no-brainer.
Instead, a coalition of advocacy groups is pressing for something a great deal more expansive. They want the card to include a photo and well as the person's age, height and weight — enough to make it a form of identification for the undocumented. They want to follow the lead of New York City, San Francisco and other cities that have created municipal IDs available to anyone.
A 5-4 majority of the council decided to research the issue further. It is a bad decision.
We have been strong supporters of comprehensive immigration reform that lets people move out of a life in the shadows. We have been highly critical of the Legislature and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio when they have cracked down on undocumented immigrants.
For the same reasons, we are skeptical of where the Phoenix council is going. Immigration is a federal responsibility. As the state and sheriff cannot exceed federal law in defining illegal immigration, a city cannot stretch in the other direction.
The city ID advocates are pushing seems a noble gesture, but it also seems likely to end up being a false promise. It will not change a person's legal status. It will not quality a person to drive or vote or get on an airplane. It will offer little in the way of concrete benefits.
The only real benefit the city can provide is letting one card do the work of the seven it now issues. If city staff and council would focus on that, they'd be serving residents well.