GREENSBORO, N.C. -- New York City launched a program this week offering immigrants an identification card even if they are still working to attain legal status.
A non-profit in Greensboro has had a similar program for more than a year and a half.
"We are one of the first cities in the south to implement a program like this," explained Reverend David Fraccaro with Faith Action International House. "When new immigrants feel like they belong, and are welcome in a particular place, they give much greater loyalty to the city they're a part of. That's a win-win for all of us economically, artistically, socially and culturally."
The cards are not a driver's license or document for legal status. Immigrants must show proof of identity and residency to buy one for $10.
With help from the Greensboro Police Department, Faith Action has issued more than 1,700 cards to immigrants from areas including Mexico and Central America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and even Canada and Italy.
Immigration Attorney Marina Castillo also works with Faith Action.
"These cards are a proof of who we are. A proof of our hope and dignity. It's a help to be treated like human beings, like part of this society, and like part of this community," Castillo explained.
She said folks don't just show up at the ID events and get a card. They are also trying to build bridges and trust between Greensboro's immigrant communities and the police.
Nine Spanish-speaking officers attend the ID card events to meet immigrants and answer their questions about laws and living in Greensboro.
Officer Victor Sanchez says the program is one of the things he's most proud to be a part of as an officer.
"My parents were also immigrants. They came over illegally, and they ended up getting legal status. But I know how hard it was for them when they first got here," Sanchez pointed out.
He said immigrants, especially those who are undocumented, are extremely hesitant to report crime in the community or ask for help if they are a victim.
Deputy Chief Wayne Scott said the ID program has helped immigrants feel more comfortable reporting crime or interacting with police as witnesses. He says it's helped them solve crimes and track down witnesses.
"It gives the police department one more tool in our tool box to positively identify people," Scott explained. "All we're doing is opening communication. We're not trying to replace a legal document."
Rev. Fraccaro says people from at least 40 North Carolina cities have asked for the IDs and Faith Action is helping places like Charlotte and Burlington looking to start similar programs.
He hopes the program could eventually be expanded into a municipal I-D card. The details of that proposal are still in the works.