Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness has proposed a community ID program so that residents in the county who do not have state identification can access essential services.
Since vaccinations began in the United States in December, states have required a driver’s license or an alternative US-issued ID to get the shot. But millions of undocumented immigrants and temporary farmworkers do not possess these documents.
Earlier in April, farmworker advocates such as the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried had called on officials to be more lenient when requiring proof of residency now that the state has lowered the vaccine eligibility age. They said many farmworkers are in the country illegally and don’t have a driver’s license or other documents required as an alternative.
Similar points were made at a commissioner’s meeting on Tuesday, where Jamaican-born Commissioner Dale Holness says he knows of at least one immigrant who has turned away from a vaccination site after attempting to use a passport as ID.
“In an email that I received, someone gave the story of an elderly immigrant Haitian woman who was in line to get the vaccination. She presented her passport to get the vaccination and she was told that she couldn’t use that form of identification to get the vaccine. Police officers told her that they only accept Florida ID. She was turned away,” he said.
Holness says, for this reason, the county needs to establish a community ID program. “They’re our residents and they can help us to control the spread of this disease if we’re able to get them vaccinated.”
Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony also wrote a letter to the Commissioners saying that he supports the proposed program.
“Today, Broward County has thousands of residents who lack identification for various reasons,” the letter read. Sheriff Tony said, adding that: “with the homeless, undocumented, formerly incarcerated, to elderly, these and other bureaucratically-challenged residents do not have access to many basic and vital services. The community ID will provide these residents with a way to access those services.”
Broward County Mayor Steve Geller noted his main concern is that he doesn’t want to put undocumented immigrants at risk for deportation by including them in the program. But at the end of the meeting, the Commissioners voted unanimously to pass the proposal. This is the first county-wide municipal ID program in Florida.