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City Council Panel OKs Plan To Offer Services Card For Illegal Immigrants

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LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A City Council committee moved forward with a controversial plan on Tuesday that would give undocumented immigrants access to banking services.

KNX 1070’s Ed Mertz reports the proposal backed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to help the “unbanked” has drawn its fair share of supporters as well as critics.

The Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee approved the plan – which would call for a Universal City Services Card that would combine a library card with a debit card function – with a 3-0 vote and will now ask the full Council to find a third-party vendor to handle the program.

Councilman Richard Alarcon first introduced the plan in September , saying libraries would be specifically useful in educating those residents who do not have a bank account with money management strategies and financial literacy – a strategy that Villaraigosa has vigorously supported.

“In a city with a couple hundred thousand people that don’t have access to a bank account, having a debit card is a good thing,” Villaraigosa said. “This is an opportunity to access city services and have some kind of ID as well.”

Supporters argue the ID cards could reduce crime because fewer people would have to carry cash and reduce immigrants’ dependence on payday lenders who charge exorbitant fees and interest rates.

Other California cities including San Francisco and Oakland have implemented similar measures to anyone who can prove residency regardless of immigration status.

But critics such as Ira Melman of the Federation of Immigration Reform fear the proposal is simply an invitation for illegal immigrants to be grafted into the civic mainstream.

“It’s making it easier for people to violate federal immigration laws and easier for people to take jobs that should be going to unemployed Americans,” Melman said.

He also pointed to a potential national security threat in a post-9/11 world.

“What they’re also doing is very recklessly ratifying false identities,” said Melman. “They have no idea who the people are when they come forward.”

Officials will solicit bids over the next 90 days to implement the cards, which could be available for distribution as earlier as summer of 2013.

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