The Faith Action ID card, a non-government form of identification that’s intended for undocumented immigrants, is under attack by the North Carolina General Assembly. For the third year in a row, the Assembly has proposed legislation to ban the card as part of a larger immigration bill.
The bill proposing the ban has passed the North Carolina Senate and is currently awaiting House approval.
The identification cards, which are accepted as valid ID by local law enforcement jurisdictions in the state, grew out of the FaithAction, led by United Church of Christ ordained minister Rev. David Fracarro, director of the organization.
So far, FaithAction has issued 4,000 of the cards, which can’t be used as a driver’s license.
The problem with the Faith Action IDs, opponents say, is the insufficient checks on those who get them. Others say the cards simply exacerbate undocumented immigration.
For police officers who operate within immigrant communities, the issue around the Faith Action ID looks markedly different than it does to lawmakers. In Burlington, for instance, Police Chief Jeffrey Smythe began participation in the identification program around 18 months ago. Looking back, Smythe remembers a 300-400-person turnout in the first couple of ID drives in the town, according to an NBC News report.
Smythe, who gained direct experience in working with immigrant communities during a 27-year career in Arizona law enforcement. Smyth acknowledged chiefs of police are placed in “very difficult circumstances” surrounding immigration. At the same time, he says, “I recognize and believe strongly that my role in being able to protect the Latino community is fundamentally based on my ability to forge relationships with them.”
The element of relationship is particularly important, the police chief says, considering the governmental and community backdrops from where some immigrants come– especially Latinos “where the police and the government do not behave in honorable and professional ways — sometimes their country of origin is one where the police were corrupt. The government really negatively impacted the way they lived.”
Since their inception, the North Carolina Assembly has worked to delegitimize the IDs, passing a bill making it illegal for state agencies to accept the cards. As a means of running interference on the move, the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police persuaded a legislator to add a rider to the bill allowing police officers discretion in the form of acceptable ID.
“Otherwise we’d (have) been taking a bunch of people to jail (even though) we knew who they were; they should have gotten a ticket on the side of the road and sent home. We’re filling the jails, potentially, with people who don’t need to be there.”
Still, not all law enforcement officers are on the same page as Smythe. Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson, which includes the town of Burlington. Johnson opposes the FaithAction ID program, saying, “I can see a problem with some of these FaithAction IDs, people being able to obtain them without proper vetting and proper identification and they can use them in a lot of ways to cause problems for law enforcement and citizens.”