In the United States, many individuals suffer from a lack of documentation in a society that requires it with great frequency. The barriers in place to obtain state identification are particularly restrictive for many transgender individuals, those who are homeless, have mental illness, are from another country or are living in a myriad of other circumstances which make acquiring an ID difficult. The community of Kalamazoo County along with individuals from Kalamazoo College met to discuss the adoption of a County ID for the residents of the county which will be put into place beginning this January.
The County ID “uses documents that are more accessible than state identification,” said Kalamazoo County ID Program Research Coordinator Libby Munoz ‘20. Using a system which allows applicants to “stack” documents to reach a certain amount of points, the card is much more accessible without losing any validity. The stacking system allows for the inclusion of documentation such as an employment record or Kalamazoo Metro Transit card while still allowing traditional documents such as a passport which are awarded more points.
The decision to adopt the program was made after the efforts of a decentralized Kalamazoo community body which met many times to discuss the impact of a County ID and its importance for residents of Kalamazoo. A research report was created by Kalamazoo College students and turned into a proposal to the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners. The Board passed the resolution on a 6-5 vote, granting an initial $60,000 budget to be implemented in January 2018. Kalamazoo College Anthropology and Sociology Professor Francisco Villegas described the positive result as an example of “communities continuously finding ways to resist the restrictions on them.”
The prolonged dedication of the community will come to fruition in the coming year, and the task force for the project has devised ways which will additionally benefit the holders of the new County ID. After working with businesses in the Kalamazoo area, the task force cooperated with local vendors and institutions which will show their support for the ID by providing discounts and special deals for those with a card.
The ID, which will cost $10, promises a value far beyond its price while establishing a sense of community in the Kalamazoo area. The discounts allow for the money that is being earned locally to remain in the local scene without being lost to national companies. This provides an economic advantage for supporting the vendors Kalamazoo in the same manner that the vendors have shown their support for the community.
The benefits from the ID extend to more than those who have difficulty acquiring a form of state identification. College students from out of state or those who are residents of Kalamazoo are not excluded from the economically advantageous ownership of the card and are further encouraged to seek it as an additional form of identification as it does not invalidate any other form which one may currently have. As the community itself has formed a way to support Kalamazoo, it is now in the hands of Kalamazoo to support its own community.