New York to give identity cards to undocumented migrants

De Blasio pledges to expand benefits and press for a higher local minimum wage

New York mayor Bill de Blasio gives the State of the City address at La Guardia Community College last night. Photograph: Getty images

New York mayor Bill de Blasio gives the State of the City address at La Guardia Community College last night. Photograph: Getty images


New York mayor Bill de Blasio charted a robust liberal agenda for the city last night, pledging to bypass Washington to address economic and social disparities by expanding benefits for illegal immigrants and pressing for a higher local minimum wage.

In his first State of the City address, Mr de Blasio said New York would become the largest municipality to offer identification cards to residents regardless of their legal status, making it easier for undocumented immigrants to open bank accounts, lease apartments or borrow library books.

And he vowed to bring New York in line with other liberal strongholds, like San Francisco and Washington, that set their own minimum wage, although de Blasio will need approval from legislators in Albany to enact his version.

In promising to move quickly with his plans, the mayor made clear he had lost patience with federal lawmakers, whose efforts to enact similar policies have stagnated, and that he was undaunted by the resistance he is encountering among officials in the state Capitol.

“We cannot wait for Washington to act,” Mr de Blasio said. “We will not let the gridlock there - or even the limits of Albany - serve as an excuse for New York City to roll over and ignore our mission.”

Mr De Blasio is hoping to follow in the steps of other local leaders who have brought about liberal reforms in the face of congressional gridlock.

Seattle’s new mayor is pushing a measure to make the city’s minimum wage among the highest in the nation.

Mr De Blasio’s proposal of municipal ID cards for immigrants, novel in New York, is based on similar measures in place in New Haven, Connecticut, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Mr De Blasio said he and the City Council, whose new leaders are closely aligned with him, would also work to expand New York’s “living wage” law to cover tens of thousands of workers whose employers receive city subsidies.

In substance and rhetoric, the mayor’s speech outlined a City Hall devoted to repairing the inequalities he said had frayed the city’s social fabric. Summing up his approach, Mr de Blasio invoked mayor Fiorello La Guardia’s ideal of “government with a soul.”

Still, for all its liberal loft, the address also reinforced Mr de Blasio’s vulnerabilities: a tendency to propose plans anathema to crucial Albany lawmakers who must approve them, and a vagueness that has raised concerns about how the mayor can deliver on his promises.

As mayor, Mr de Blasio, a former political operative, has so far overseen a campaign-style operation at City Hall, and his address Monday more closely resembled a restatement of his usual themes than an airing of fresh policy proposals. He was stingy with specifics, offering no dollar figure for what he hoped the city’s minimum wage would be, and his description of ambitious plans, like a goal of creating thousands of new units of affordable housing, came with few details about how they would be carried out.

New York Times