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Abstract

Municipal ID, specifically CityKey, exists at the center of debates surrounding immigration, federalism, citizenship, and belonging. In this thesis, I seek to answer two questions: one about the extent to which municipal identification influences conceptions of belonging for members of immigrant and undocumented communities in Chicago, the other about how service providers and non-governmental organizations understand their role in creating and/or discouraging pathways for belonging as it relates to municipal ID programs. Between November 2019 and March 2020, I interviewed 14 subjects total from both Chicago and the Chicago suburbs; two city officials, ten NGO advocates, and two community members. As my interviewees expressed, belonging by way of CityKey existed in two forms that worked hand-in-hand: through increased visibility in Chicago, and through participating in active, municipal citizenship. Furthermore, my interviewees spoke to two barriers to belonging: at the city-level, the rejection of CityKey at banks and financial institutions, and at the federal-level, fear caused by the current federal administration. To my second question, according to my subjects, NGOs served as a bridge between their communities and city government, which facilitated pathways for belonging. Further, NGO advocates spoke to the ways they held the City accountable, and areas where CityKey could be improved. In suburban communities, my subjects spoke to differing conceptions of belonging, especially as it relates to access to services and local political representation. As CityKey celebrates its second birthday, it’s important to study how CityKey impacts vulnerable communities, particularly Chicago’s immigrant and undocumented communities.

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