Too many homeless people in Michigan are blocked from improving their lives by unreasonable requirements to have state identification cards, according to representatives of metro Detroit agencies who met Friday at a conference in Waterford. “This has been a growing problem for years and it’s reached a crisis point,” said Elizabeth Kelly, executive director of the Hope Hospitality and Warming Center, a homeless shelter in Pontiac. Homeless people rarely possess driver’s licenses, so most depend on ID cards issued by Secretary of State offices. But to get the state ID card demands unreasonable proof of identity, said Kelly and others at the Homeless Healthcare Collaboration conference. They said rules were tightening at Social Security offices too, and that’s keeping some homeless people from accessing the services they need. “You have people going to the Secretary of State and being told they have to have a Social Security card, and so they go to a Social Security office and they’re told they have to have a state ID card — it’s a classic case of Catch-22,” University of Michigan social research professor Gregory Markus told the audience.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that many of the most zealous advocates of voter ID laws object to anything that remotely smells like a national ID card. Voter ID laws are designed to harass and discourage old people, young people and minorities inclined to vote Democratic in states with Republican-dominated legislatures. National ID cards like the one approved under the Real ID Act of 2005 mandate another layer of federal regulation for state driver’s licenses and personal identification cards. By 2014, each state must issue driver’s licenses and ID cards that meet minimum federal requirements to be compliant with the law. The new cards will contain tamper-proof information and, eventually, biometric technology. All citizens, not just Democrats, would be hassled by the implementation of this law. The burden and expense of providing required documents just to apply for Real ID would be universal. If you want to catch a commercial flight, gain access to a nuclear facility or enter a federal building, Real ID cards will eventually be the only acceptable form of identification.