A coalition on Nov. 2 rallied in support of a Milwaukee County budget amendment to create a work group to produce a Milwaukee ID card.
After the rally, about 20 people spoke in support of Milwaukee IDs during a hearing held by the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors.
The ID would be available through a partnership between the city and the county.
The budget amendment creating a work group to produce the card passed the county board’s finance committee in late October and will come to a full vote before the county board on Nov. 9. Last week, the public safety committee of the Milwaukee Common Council unanimously backed legislation to include the program in the city’s budget, which was to be voted upon on Nov. 3.
Speakers at the rally included County Supervisors Khalif Rainey, Peggy Romo-West and Marina Dimitrijevic, transgender community members, undocumented immigrants, family members of incarcerated people, and representatives of St. Ben’s Community Meal Program.
“This is about is about giving everyone an opportunity to be included in society,” said Rainey. “You shouldn’t be a member of our community and go to the hospital and not be able to get the services you need. That’s why I’m standing with you in solidarity in support of local ID.”
“I need to have a way to identify myself, to show who I am,” said Guadalupe Romero, a member of Voces de la Frontera. “One of my sons broke his back in a work accident, and had to have a metal bar placed in his spine. You can imagine the pain he was in. The doctors gave him a prescription for pain medicine, but because he didn’t have a government-issued ID card the pharmacist would not give it to him.
“A little while later our pet dog got sick,” continued Romero. When we took him to the veterinarian, we were able to obtain medicine for the dog immediately, and I ask, why? Does my son not have more value than an animal?”
“In many cases, a lack of a government-issued ID is a barrier to domestic violence victims who are attempting to escape abusers,” said Tony Gibart, public policy director of End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin. “First, court documents, such as petitions for divorce, must be notarized, and notaries usually require the presentation of a government-issued ID. Second, applications for federal immigration protections for undocumented victims of domestic violence and their children require possessing a government-issued ID. Providing the opportunity for people to easily obtain a local ID would address these problems.”
“I had to deal through years of shame, and still continue to be shamed for simply declaring: this is who I am,” said transgender woman Livia Rowell-Ortiz. “When I leave my house I am making a conscious decision that I am placing myself in active danger — that it is likely that I be harassed increasingly depending on how visible I am that day, to the extent of fearing going outside at all. It is my hope that this local ID will pass and start the process of ending this shaming with the protection of the county and city of Milwaukee for myself and other transgender persons.”
“We have homeless at St. Ben’s who constantly come to the doors saying they need help in trying to get an ID,” said Br. Rob Roemer, OFM Cap, director of St. Ben’s Community Meal Program. “Often they cannot get their birth certificate that is required to get a State ID. We encourage the county to start offering other forms of ID’s that help the homeless and poor to get the jobs and help they need to get out of their situations.”
The coalition supporting local IDs for Milwaukee includes St. Ben’s Community Meal, Project Return, Wisconsin Jobs Now, Milwaukee LGBT Community Center, End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation and Voces de la Frontera.