Equal Justice

Center Head

Kelsea Jeon - JE '20

Kelsea is a freshman in Jonathan Edwards College from Los Angeles, California. She is currently a prospective Ethics, Politics, and Economics major, with interests in race relations and immigration. Outside of Roosevelt, she is involved with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Project. In her spare time, she enjoys reading fiction novels, watching New Girl, latte-sipping at Willoughby’s, and going on spontaneous Zipcar adventures.


Center Members:

Benjamin Waldman

Jacky Fung

Cathy Xue

Madeleine Lee

Alexandra O’Brien

Emma Lower

Sophia Wang


Current scholarship about the Elm City Resident Card suggests that it is not widely accepted as a legitimate form of identification. In 2007, it was issued by the city of New Haven as a solution for the high crime rates facing undocumented immigrants who were targeted as “walking ATMS” because of their inabilities to open bank accounts. This card sought to serve as: an identification card, a debit card with a $150 limit, a discount card at local businesses, and an access card to public services. However, the main issue that this card was supposed to address -- opening bank accounts -- was not solved; major banks deemed the card an illegitimate form of identification and failed to accept it. Additionally, local businesses within New Haven and especially beyond the outskirts of the city, failed to accept the card as legal. Because of its perceived ineffectiveness, the card’s demand has waned over the years. Rather than address and solve the issues associated with the Elm City Resident Card, however, New Haven has looked to other forms of identification, largely dismissing the needs of the undocumented population. While New Haven has displayed its indifference towards improving this card, cities like San Francisco and Oakland have used the Elm City Resident card as a model to implement similar policies in their areas. Drawing on the Elm Card’s shortcomings, they have successfully created effective forms of identification to serve members of their respective communities. What makes a municipal identification card legitimate and what can New Haven’s Community Services Administration do to improve the Elm City Resident Card to make it more beneficial to the residents, particularly the undocumented immigrants, of New Haven?

Collaboration with: Community Service Administration, Unidad Latina en Accion