MORRISTOWN – Rev. Brandon Cho of Morristown UMC started getting calls from congregants who were worried about new federal immigration policies and he knew something needed to be done. In a joint effort with Wind of Spirit – an immigration advocacy organization, the Morristown Clergy Council, and backing by city officials, the Morristown Municipal ID program was conceived.
The need for a municipal id was clear. Proof of residency is required for opening a bank account, certain health care services and accessible hospital medical information.
Parents need to proof of residency to sign up their children for sports activities or to swim at the municipal pool need ID.
“Our ultimate goal is to always be a fair and welcoming community,” said Cho. “Many of our congregants are recently arrived immigrants. We strongly feel that they are an asset to the community and this country. We want them to have access to the same opportunities as the rest of us. All they want is a shot at the American dream, and we want to help give that to them. This ID program is the first of many steps in that direction.”
Morristown is a culturally diverse city with 34% of the 19,000 population having Latino or Hispanic origin. Morristown UMC launched a bilingual ministry, Nueva Esperanza (New Hope) to make worship more accessible to everyone in the community.
Many members of immigrant communities do not drive or have a driver’s license. Obtaining proper identification becomes a serious issue for them.
Community and church members asserted at the council meeting on August 1 that being able to produce identification and proof of residence would greatly improve interactions immigrants might have with law enforcement officials and ICE to prevent swift action regarding deportation. The council unanimously approved the program.
Mayor Timothy Dougherty was so enthused by the initiative that he was the first in line to sign up for a card. Now all people, including immigrants can make an appointment, go to Morristown city hall, and within minutes have an ID card stamped with a hologram which will make their lives much easier. The process is safe and private, and no information is shared regarding the legal status of those who apply. The cost for the ID cards is minimal, ranging from $7 to $15 depending on the age of the applicant. The ID cards are also useful for underage students who don’t have driver’s licenses, as well as senior citizens.
Cho says this program is a part of a larger initiative his ministry is taking in aiding the immigrant population. He believes in a “holistic approach” to these issues. So far, the ministry has hosted several workshops in conjunction with Wind of Spirit to help address immigration issues and educate the community on their rights and options. The church’s next plan is to create a Hope Center, led by Associate Pastor Charles Perez, to help aid the immigrants living in Morristown.
For more information about Morristown UMC and its programs, visit morristownumc.org.