Enhanced library cards designed to help Harris County residents with no photo ID

Rosie Nguyen Image
Wednesday, April 6, 2022
New library cards to help Harris County residents with no photo ID
Living without a photo ID can come with several challenges, there's a new option to help bridge some of those gaps.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- Living without a photo ID can come with several challenges. Think of the formerly incarcerated, domestic violence survivors, LGBTQ+ community members, people living with a disability, or undocumented immigrants who may have difficulty getting housing, a job, or access to basic community services. They have a new option to help bridge some of those gaps.

"So many times, that confidence is taken away. How do you expect people to stop committing crimes? How do you expect these people to come and do positive things when the people in power are not respecting those individuals as people?" said Synnachia McQueen Jr., member of Right2Justice.

Noe Ramirez with Living Hope Wheelchair Association explained that people living with disabilities often face transportation, mobility, and socio-economic barriers that prevent them from getting state-issued documents. He said the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 winter storms, and annual hurricanes highlighted the importance of having a photo ID to access critical assistance such as shelters, funds, and other forms of relief.

After three years of advocating for the Enhanced+ library card, the Texas Organizing Project (TOP) and its partnering agencies celebrated the program's launch Tuesday morning with a press conference with a line-up of speakers. The card is a free photo ID valid for five years with the person's name, address, date of birth, and gender. Anyone living in Harris County can get one regardless of age, immigration status, or housing status.

"A basic thing that we think and we assume everyone should have access to, the reality is many people don't, and this is why this is such a huge milestone," said Kristian Caballero with Texas Appleseed.

"This new library card will be useful to all immigrant people like me, who cannot get a state ID. We need everyone's support so that our communities can live a dignified life without fear," Daisy Osorio said in Spanish during Tuesday's press conference.

Enhanced library cards designed to help Harris County residents with no photo ID

This doesn't mean anyone can walk into a Harris County library and get a card under any name they want. Applicants must prove their identity through documentation like a consular ID card, foreign passport, birth certificate, social security card, ITIN, or school documents. Residency must also be verified through forms like a property lease, utility bills, insurance bills, or a signed letter from a healthcare or social service agency.

Advocates said it's a way to help protect and break down barriers for those in vulnerable situations.

"Some people worry about getting stopped by a cop and not having an ID, and furthermore, they can detain you. They can find you. It's the incurrence of different expenses that we already in our communities cannot afford," said Christina Quintero, a community member with Texas Organizing Project.

Organizers said the program is also available in San Antonio. In our area so far, they said the Harris County Sheriff's Office and Harris Health are the two agencies that have agreed to accept the cards as valid photo identification. Their goal is to get the city of Houston and the Houston Police Department on board next. Ultimately, they hope the Enhanced+ library card will be accepted across the state.

"The implementation of this program is a first great step. However, our work is not done yet," said Damaris Gonzalez, an immigrants rights community organizer for Texas Organizing Project. "We must continue to advocate and push our community and local enforcement departments to accept the new Enhanced library card as a form of ID to decrease the criminalization, mass incarceration, and deportation of Black and Latino people."

To get a free Enhanced+ library card, visit any of the 26 Harris County Public Library branches, you must go in person and can get the card on the same day. To find your local branch, click here. For more information about the card or FAQs, the Harris County Public Library's website.

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