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Oakland launches municipal ID-debit card
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OAKLAND  (AP) — City officials introduced a municipal identification card on Friday that will double as a debit card.

The goal is to help city residents, including illegal immigrants, who may have difficulty obtaining another form of identification.

However, critics say the card legitimizes the presence of illegal immigrants and poses a security risk to users.

New Haven, Conn., offers a similar ID card, and Los Angeles is also pursuing one.

The debit function will allow people who don't have a bank account to avoid check-cashing fees or the risk of carrying large amounts of cash, officials have said.

"It is a symbol of the fact that the city of Oakland is willing to go through a lot of hurdles, a lot of work to make sure this works," Mayor Jean Quan said at the launch ceremony.

People will be able to apply for the cards starting on Feb. 18, although they shouldn't expect to receive them until about the middle of March, said Sean Maher, a spokesman for the Oakland mayor's office,

The city expects to issue thousands of cards this year. They will cost $15 although seniors and minors will get a discount.

The debit function would draw money from a prepaid account set up by users, Maher said. That account could be replenished at sites around the city.

It is tied into the MasterCard network, so merchants can process the card without requiring a PIN, Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy for the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Additionally, the home address that might be used for billing verification purposes would be on the card.

The result, according to Stephens, is that anyone who gets possession of the card could easily drain the account.

"They're inadvertently exposing residents who choose this debit card to very great financial risk," he said.

Oakland officials say the debit function is optional and fraud is a danger with any debit card system.

Users can sign up to receive a text message every time the debit function is used, said Deputy City Administrator Arturo Sanchez, who oversees the ID program.