St. Brigid Church in Bushwick opened a temporary enrollment site for IDNYC, a free identification card for New York City residents, regardless of immigration status. Located in the parish’s basement, the center will remain open until May 22.
Launched earlier this year, the municipal identification card program aims to benefit every resident – including vulnerable communities like youths, the elderly, immigrants, the homeless and those who struggle to navigate City services and institutions. As a government-issued photo ID, this document will grant residents access to City services such as housing, bank accounts and legal services.
“Having an official identification gives people a sense of security,” said Father Jorge Ortiz, administrator of St. Brigid. “People were looking for something like this.”
St. Brigid is the first parish to host an IDNYC enrollment center. The parish became a temporary processing center as a result of conversations between the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and the Diocese of Brooklyn, Father Ortiz explained.
Since the program started in January, more than 100,000 New Yorkers have applied to get a municipal ID. More than 60,000 of those applicants come from Brooklyn and Queens. Overwhelming demand for IDs resulted in long wait times and the need for extra processing centers, he added.
“There were no centers in this area. People had to go to Jamaica or Queens,” Father Ortiz said. “When this issue arose – that persons were not be able to get their appointment for a long time – the mayor’s office spoke with Msgr. (Kieran) Harrington, the (diocesan) communication office and Catholic Migration Services’ Father Patrick Keating, and they thought of St. Brigid.”
He added that on the first day the temporary center opened, City officials “started at 9 a.m. and were going non-stop until six.”
Parishioners Edigson Brito and Carmita Moposita were among a group of people carrying applications in multiple languages and folders filled with passports and important paperwork, as they stood in line outside the church. They heard about the ID processing center at Sunday Mass.
“I think it is very important to do this because everywhere we go, they ask us for an identification,” Brito said, while holding his three-year-old son, Emanuel.
Father Ortiz said he wishes the center could stay in the parish longer because its reach expands from Bushwick to Glendale and Ridgewood. “Parishioners and members of the community in general are seeking this ID,” he said.
The card is for residents age 14 and up in New York’s five boroughs. To apply, residents need to make an appointment online or by phone and bring documents to prove identity and City residency, which can include passports, driving licenses, utility bills, tax statements or apartment leases.
Immigration advocates said getting an ID is an important step toward integrating and improving the quality of life of undocumented immigrants. The identification card will be accepted as a valid identification at some City banks and credit unions, City government buildings, schools and hospitals. Other aspects of everyday life that require an ID include renting an apartment, filling a prescription and encountering a police officer who asks for identification.
According to the program’s website, the card cannot be used to apply for a driver’s license or receive federal or state assistance, nor does it confer immigration status or provide work authorization.
There are 17 permanent application centers around New York City so far. The City opens temporary centers every month, like the one at St. Brigid, to make the process easier for residents.
“We can have a comfortable schedule to make an appointment (to apply for a municipal ID at St. Brigid), including appointments on Saturdays. Many work Monday through Friday and this is a great benefit,” Brito said. “I believe it is also a way to develop (a sense of) community.”
Carmen Cardenas Galvan, a parishioner of St. Matthias, Ridgewood, came to the center at St. Brigid because it was closest to her.
“In my case, having an identification will be useful to have a bank account,” she said. “There are a lot of undocumented people who do not have papers and this would be a great help.”
In addition to access to City services, the municipal ID offers benefits for cardholders signing up in 2015, including discounts at some stores and free one-year memberships at 33 museums and cultural institutions.
Father Ortiz said that although “the benefits are excellent,” what is most important is the sense of security and belonging the ID would bring.
Father Ortiz added that creating space for this program follows St. Brigid’s tradition of helping its neighbors.
“St. Brigid always has been a great center for the Hispanic community and immigrant community, and we continue to do this,” he said. “Bishop (Nicholas) DiMarzio has always been very close to the realities within his diocese, so he exhorts us to serve the community in any way we can.”