To Carry or Not to Carry Extra IDs in the Era of Trump

Jan 14, 2020
10:25 AM

(U.S. Department of State/Public Domain)

My best friend from childhood in Texas recently admitted to me that he carries his Social Security card around with him as well as his driver’s license. I too carry my passport card and my driver’s license with me everywhere I go in the United States—event on quick runs to the grocery store in my sanctuary city. You may think that it is ridiculous why both of us carry extra identification as we are both U.S.-born grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Mexican immigrants. We both have Southern accents in English and Pocha accents at our attempts in Spanish.

Why our identities may be clearly American in many ways, my childhood best friend and me are both clearly marked as foreign and Latino. My best friend has darker complexion skin, and people always know his ethnicity before he talks. In my case, I am light-skinned and regularly get mistaken for Italian, Greek and any other Mediterranean country. But I am regularly with my Latino family, which marks me Latina by association.

My husband and I haven an almost three-year-old toddler who does not listen, well, because he is a toddler asserting his independence. In public, we talk loudly at him to come back or sit still since he understands Spanish better than English. As a result, our Latino identities are not hidden.

My husband is a Peruvian from Mexico whose English is strongly accented and who just received his U.S. citizenship in the past two years. We seriously don’t know how updated the USCIS and ICE databases are, but we do know that the Los Angeles Times has reported that there are a bunch of administrative mistakes about the status of new citizens.

In Trump’s America, we are all the same, whether we are later-generation Mexican American or a new arrival from Honduras or only English-speaking or only Spanish-speaking. Even in sanctuary states of Connecticut and New York State where we live, we know of people who have had for their green card or naturalization papers demanded by police officers. Between 2012 and 2018, there have been 1,480 people who were held by ICE but ascertained their American citizenship. Some of these cases involved people who lived in the sanctuary NYC and were born outside of the country—like my own husband.

Last year, the Dallas Morning News published the story of a Latino U.S. citizen man who was in the company of undocumented friends, got stopped by immigration north of the Mexico-U.S. border and put in ICE detention for three weeks. It was also later revealed that this young man was carrying his birth certificate, Texas ID card and Social Security card at the time of his stop which the authorities thought were falsified.

While we know an extra ID may not be enough, we also know that immigration policy is not carried out the same in all places and at the same times. Some places may let you go based on your paperwork, and in those same places, they may not at other times. For example, Iranian Americans with U.S. passports found themselves held at the Canada-U.S. border for hours) after threats of retaliation from Iran from Trump’s killing of Qasem Soleimani.

When I crowdsourced comments on my private Facebook page about carrying extra IDs, people wrote a range of what they do. Several of my Mexican American friends who live along the U.S.-Mexico border carry their passport ID cards and their state ID.  Empowered by the SCOTUS Ruling of U.S. vs. Martinez-Fuentes, Border Patrol agents have stopped my friends to ask them about their status or to produce extra paperwork.

Two Puerto Ricans on my Facebook page commented that they always carry U.S.-based ID and their PR identifications. For them, the Puerto Rican identification has not been seen as sufficiently “American enough” when they needed to produce identification.

In other cases, others of Latino descent stated to me that they don’t need to worry as they are in a sanctuary city or, in one case, is a lawyer. A few others told me that they never thought about this before until my post.

What I find most fascinating is, that in Trump’s United States, some U.S. citizens of Latino background are now carrying extra ID in case our citizenship is ever questioned by someone with the authority to detain us. It is not just something that we read in the news but that some of us are taking additional IDs as part of our everyday behavior. Carrying your passport ID or green card paperwork is like wearing shoes to go outside. It is what you do to protect yourself.

Do you carry extra IDs “just in case?” Why or why not? I would love to learn why.


Christina Saenz can be found on Twitter at @nyctejana. The views in this post do not necessarily represent the organizations that she works with or Latino Rebels.