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It was a problem German Vergara had encountered repeatedly. An unauthorized immigrant from Ecuador, he tried enrolling in a college English-as-a-second-language class, but was told he needed a local form of identification.

“There are many situations where you need identification,” said Vergara, who has lived in Roselle for 13 years. “It is a problem when we only have something from our home country.”

That problem may soon be resolved for Vergara, his wife and several thousands of other borough residents when Roselle begins issuing its own identification cards.

The borough council earlier this month introduced an ordinance to create the cards, acting on an initiative that Mayor Christine Dansereau set in motion following a similar ordinance enacted in the city of Newark last May.

“We represent the community. We want everyone in the community, both documented and undocumented, to feel that we in the borough recognize them,” Dansereau said.

Under the ordinance, any person age 14 and older will be eligible for a card, including, Dansereau said, senior citizens who may no longer have a driver’s license.

Without the local identification, Vergara had difficulty buying life insurance and his wife had trouble receiving reimbursement for hospital care.

Immigrants hit roadblocks registering children for school, said Dansereau. They are unable to open banks accounts, requiring them to carry cash and thereby making them susceptible to thieves and unscrupulous landlords who know that this segment of the society is often afraid to have any contact with police, the mayor said.

“At times it makes them feel invisible,” she said.

Dansereau also sees an economic benefit to the borough to have people more involved.

“In this little tiny piece of the world, the fact that they bank their money here helps the community,” she said.

Vergara was among about 60 unauthorized immigrants at the council meeting when the ordinance was passed on first reading, said Sara Cullinane, of Make The Road New Jersey, a non-profit agency advocating for the Latino population.

At the meeting, an interpreter translated the comments from the council members and speakers.

Just over 21,000 people live in the 2.7 square miles in Roselle, according to census data, and slightly more than 26 percent of the people were born outside the United States. People from Latin American countries account for 70 percent of the foreign-born population, according to the data.

Immigration laws are a federal issue, said Ari Rosmarin, Public Policy Director for the New Jersey chapter of the ACLU, who worked with Newark in developing a similar ordinance. Municipalities, he said, must deal with providing safety and services for their residents.

“It is the job of the municipality to do right by the people live here,” Rosmarin said.

The borough has a second and final vote on the ID card ordinance on October 21.

Dansereau said the borough plans to begin issuing the cards through the borough library during the week of the Thanksgiving holiday.

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