On Thursday, Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe and the City Commission discussed a possible community ID program that could provide the homeless, ex-prisoners, immigrants and refugees in the Gainesville community with a valid alternative to state IDs.
Poe said the President Donald Trump administration’s immigration policies are a growing concern for the Gainesville community. Poe is in the beginning stages of discussing the program with other city officials and community members and determining how and where the IDs could be accepted.
“I have and will continue to believe that it is one of our primary responsibilities — to make sure that everybody in our community feels safe, feels welcomed and feels like they can fully utilize all the assets of our community,” he said. “One barrier to doing that at times is lack of access to valid state ID.”
Gia Del Pino, organizer for Mothers Without Borders, is a community advocate for a plan called the Faith Action ID program, which began with Greensboro, North Carolina, law enforcement.
The ID is not a driver’s license and could not be used to vote or receive any government welfare benefits, Del Pino said. Faith Action IDs could be used to open bank accounts, access public libraries and to show residency in the community.
“This can help people stay out of jail simply for not having a valid form of ID,” she said. “Many times when you need to go to the doctor, you need to show a valid form of ID, and they’re very strict about that. This ID would help bridge that gap.”
Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos said in the meeting he worries this program could indirectly give the Trump administration access to public records for undocumented immigrants. Poe said a possible solution is to “get every gringo in the world to show up on day one and get our IDs.”
The commission largely supported the idea, but Gainesville resident Debbie Martinez said she did not understand Poe’s comment about “gringos,” and a second Gainesville resident Nathan Skop said the program would be against U.S. local policies.
Poe clarified his comment by saying, “Get all of the white people who usually enjoy a lot of privilege, and not a lot of scrutiny, to go sign up for these IDs so it dilutes the pool of people who might be under scrutiny by the Trump administration.”
Skop said Poe asking community members to sign up for the IDs and saying some residents are privileged is racist. He demanded a public apology before taking his seat. Poe did not apologize.
“This is yet another example of the disrespectful behavior from the Mayor and City Commission toward the citizens of Gainesville and GRU customers,” Skop said. “As an elected official, it is hard to believe that Mayor Poe made such an insensitive, derogatory and inappropriate comment during a public meeting. Mayor Poe owes the citizens of Gainesville a public apology.”
Poe defended his use of the word.
“I did not use a derogatory term. I made fun of myself,” Poe said. “It’s called self-deprecating humor.”