Insights & Analyses

Amidst Trump transition, IDNYC stops retaining immigrant background documents

December 8, 2016

New York City’s identification card program geared toward undocumented immigrants will no longer retain personal background documents for cardholders, a change that comes as the city’s mayor has expressed concern about such data falling into the hands of President-elect Donald Trump.

“The IDNYC program will be transitioning to a policy that does not involve the retention of cardholders’ personal background documents,” the mayor’s office of New York City announced this week. “During this transition, New Yorkers are encouraged to continue to call 311 and make an appointment to begin the pre-application process that remains in place. We expect to begin processing complete applications under the new policy in January.”

The announcement comes less than a month after New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city plans to protect the personal information of immigrants collected for the IDNYC card.

The moves come in response to the election of Trump, a Republican who has vowed to take a hawkish stance on illegal immigration, threatening to deport millions of undocumented people. Opponents — including de Blasio, a Democrat — have raised concerns that a database of immigrant information could be a potential target for a Trump administration seeking to identify illegals.

Before the mayor revealed plans to remove the data, Republican state lawmakers announced their intent to sue the city to preserve the personal information. Opponents contend that the destruction of data would violate New York’s Freedom of Information Law, and that the information could be used to solve crimes.

The IDNYC program enables people who are not citizens to provide identification for services such as opening a bank account or getting a library card. While intended for undocumented immigrants, it’s available to anyone, and adoption of the card has been incentivized by offering discounts on events, goods, and memberships.

Federal law allows U.S. cities to issue their own identification cards if they choose, irrespective of immigration or criminal status. The IDNYC card program launched in January of 2015.