Nonprofit Newswire | Undocumented People and Services—A Different Drummer in N.J.

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May 16, 2010; Source: New York Times |  So far Congress’ failure to address immigration reform has focused—many would say deservedly—on unflattering attention on Arizona’s new law that makes the failure to carry documents showing whether a person is in the country legally a crime. Yet, thanks to less divisive solutions being promoted and administered by advocacy groups, several New Jersey communities are taking the opposite tack.

Undocumented people living in Asbury Park and Trenton can request photo ID cards that show proof of residence. Princeton will begin issuing cards later this week. And while they don’t give holders legal residency or the right to work, the photo ID cards do help them in other ways. According to the New York Times, cardholders in Trenton use their identification to access libraries, medical centers and doctors’ offices, as well as to seek help from charitable groups and private social service agencies.

The cards also enable them to use city’s public recreation centers and pools. The programs in all three New Jersey communities are endorsed by local law enforcement officials, but administered by local community groups. Eve Sanchez Silver, who is the community and Latino liaison for Asbury Park, where the program has been operating since 2008, said, “I believe that people who are here in America must be safe and must be healthy. “If they’re not safe, we’re not going to be safe. If they’re not going to be healthy, we’re not going to be healthy.” The Times reports that in other cities around the country, governments are taking a similar tack.—Bruce Trachtenberg