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Paris mayoral hopeful wants immigrant ID cards ‘like in New York'’

© Photo: AFP

Text by Sophie PILGRIM

Latest update : 2014-02-13

A pledge by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio to provide ID cards to undocumented workers has inspired a French left-wing candidate running for Paris mayor to make the policy a part of her manifesto.

“We will not force any of our residents to live their lives in the shadows,” de Blasio said at his first State of the City address on Monday. “To all of my fellow New Yorkers who are undocumented, I say: New York City is your home, too.”

De Blasio’s initiative, to be rolled out this year, will facilitate undocumented workers in opening bank accounts, leasing apartments and gaining access to legal rights.

Danielle Simonnet, a far-left candidate running in the Paris mayoral in March, applauded the initiative on Tuesday, pledging to make it one of her own.

“How can we continue to allow so many people to be exploited by thug bosses and slumlords because they are undocumented?” Simonnet said in an online statement.

“The [current] situation sustains precariousness and exclusion and must be fought against with regularisation and access to rights.”

Socialist dilemma

Judging by opinion polls it is unlikely that Simonnet will find herself in a position to implement the policy – a survey by French agency CSA in January put the Parti de Gauche candidate at 5% of the vote.

But her proposal might ruffle the feathers of Socialist candidate Anne Hidalgo, who is currently running neck-and-neck against her conservative rival, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet.

Foreigners’ rights have proved a thorn in the Socialist Party’s side for decades in France, where immigrants are barred from voting even in local elections.

The party has made several attempts to introduce voting rights for non-citizens but has never received the backing of the public, which remained dead-set against the idea even in 2012.

Providing ID cards to France’s 350,000 undocumented workers could prove a dangerous suggestion for a leading candidate ahead of the March election.

US experiment

In the United States, ID cards for immigrants are not an entirely novel idea, where such a system is already in place in several cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco. In New Haven, Connecticut, which was the first to launch the scheme in 2007, crime in the largely-immigrant Fair Haven district dropped by 20 percent in the two years after IDs were introduced, even as crime-reporting increased.

In de Blasio’s New York, where Democrats outnumber Republicans six to one, ID cards are unlikely to meet with a great deal of resistance.

At his speech on Tuesday, de Blasio stood before a banner of his new slogan, “One New York,” which was born from his pre-election criticism of the growing wealth gap in the city under the leadership of his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg.

De Blasio hopes that the cards, along with his pledge to put an end to racially-prejudiced stop and frisk policies, will help to improve relations between police and citizens.

There are believed to be almost half a million undocumented residents in New York. Allowing ID cards to residents irrespective of their legal status will make it the largest municipality to do so in the US.

Date created : 2014-02-13

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