To help its underserved residents, Oakland, Calif., has been issuing municipal identification credentials that double as debit cards.

Available to anyone who can prove residency, including undocumented immigrants, the ID/debit cards will give legitimate identification as well as access to affordable, secure banking services, according to city materials.

Many of Oakland’s poorest residents are day laborers - a majority of which are undocumented, according to National Public Radio. With no identification and no bank accounts, most of these workers rely on check cashing services on payday. Most of these services charge large fees to cash paychecks.

But with the Oakland City ID card, residents can take advantage of direct deposit, according to city materials. The service is free, and allows users to avoid check-cashing fees. Funds are available instantly without any hold period.

In addition to freeing up funds by eliminating fees, the cards may also help cut down on crime.

A consequence of not having a bank account, according to NPR, is that day laborers “are seen as walking ATMs” to criminals. These workers are targets for muggers who know they carry cash instead of depositing their earnings in a bank.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan told NPR the card will help people anytime they deal with a city agency, be it the police or the public library. And the debit feature is important to financially empower residents. But some worry the ID card and its financial services are small steps on a path to amnesty for illegal immigrants.

"It's one more way of having a de facto amnesty for illegal immigrants," Mark Krikorian, who directs the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank favoring strict immigration controls, told NPR. "This kind of measure, along with, say, giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, helps integrate illegal immigrants into our institutions in a way that is simply inappropriate.”

The cards cost $15, with a $5 discount for youths and seniors, according to city materials. Cards were first issued in mid-March in partnership with MasterCard.


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