One town in Transylvania County has begun issuing identification cards to those who may not be able to obtain a government-issued state ID or driver’s license. The grassroots initiative wants to serve the community’s residents who don’t have legal citizenship.
About a year and a half ago, members of Saint Philips Episcopal Church and El Centro Comunitario partnered up to find out what it would take to get the so called “community ID’s” to Brevard. Retired priest Richard Kunz says the idea behind it was to give people who are undocumented a valid form of identification for everyday needs, like cashing a check.
“It’s important to have a sense of who they are in the community, but also it’s useful for them, they don’t have to be under the radar any longer,” Kunz said.
The white laminated cards show an individual’s photo, address and date of birth. It has a hologram, but clearly states that it is NOT a legal document.
But the cards do have support from local law enforcement.
“I am not this activist in my role as police chief.”
Brevard Chief of Police John Philip Harris Junior says he’s not interested in wading into the immigration debate.
“What I’m looking at, is what is good for every citizen that gets the services of the Brevard police department. We don’t assess whether someone is illegally or not. We assess our laws.
He says one particular aspect of the card is especially helpful for law enforcement. On the back, individuals can list an emergency contact number. Chief Harris says this is essential information in situations where an individual has died and law enforcement is left waiting for someone to identify the body.
“We have nowhere to go. We’ve got a John Doe. What a difficult and heartbreaking situation,if we’ve got somebody that died, in our community that we can do nothing more than mark them as a John Doe and wait on somebody to claim them.”
The cards cost $10. But Richard Kunz from Saint Philips’ Church says to people who’ve gotten them -- they’re invaluable.
“Having a Brevard area community ID gives people a sense of belonging," Kunz said.
Kunz adds, the ID’s are for anyone in Brevard, not exclusively immigrants. The town is a popular destination for mountain bikers and hikers, so he says, the cards can be extra reassurance for those who spend time in the woods.