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Community ID program pushes back against monetary setbacks: ‘We are not closing our doors’

Anyone can get a Community IDs for $10 by showing a proof of age and address. (Mariana Pena Rueda/WUFT News)
Anyone can get a Community IDs for $10 by showing a proof of age and address. (Mariana Pena Rueda/WUFT News)

Jamileth Sequeida, 31, said she wishes it were easier to be in the U.S.

“In here, it is just too hard,” she said. “I just want to go.”

Along with her husband, Sequeida embarked on a 21-day journey across the U.S. border from Nicaragua nine months ago. They traveled light, brought only what was necessary and had to leave behind what was the most important to them — their three daughters.

“It hurts when they tell me ‘I wish you were here,’” she said. “Sometimes I just wish I could give them a hug.”

Her 3-year-old, 4-year-old and 14-year-old daughters stayed behind while they looked for a better life in the U.S., she said.

“I just want to be able to provide for my family,” she said. “I want to fulfill my longtime dream of giving them a home.”

The Community IDs program helps them get closer to achieving just that .

The program is hosted by The Human Rights Coalition of Alachua County, a non-profit organization that aims to assist those in times of difficulty.

The community identification card is a way to identify yourself as an active member of the community, ID Program Director Veronica Robleto said.

“Lately, we have seen a lot of new arrivals in the area,” Robleto said.

The Community IDs provide a sense of relief for undocumented immigrants or those lacking a form of identification. By acquiring an identification card, Robleto said they receive access to health care, the public school system, housing and utilities.

But on July 1, 2023, Florida Senate Bill 1718 came into effect, threatening the program.

The legislation prohibits counties or municipalities from funding any organization “issuing an identification card or other document to an individual who does not provide proof of lawful presence in the United States.”

For the Human Rights Coalition, this meant losing the $20,000 they received from the city of Gainesville to fund the Community ID program.

To recover the funds lost as a result of the new law, the organization is applying for grants and engaging in a fundraising campaign. They have already raised 42% of their $20,000 goal.

But as fears arise within the immigrant community, a question lingers in the air: What will happen with the program if this goal is not met?

“We are not going to close our doors,” Robleto said. “The demand is high.”

Since obtaining the funding in June 2022, the organization said it has issued nearly 800 ID cards. More than 500 community ID cards have been issued since the beginning of 2023, according to Robleto.

And though the law puts weight on immigration status, the program does not.

“We don't actually ask whether someone has an immigration status or not,” she said.

That’s not the program’s goal.

“Part of the community IDs’ objective is to be able to identify yourself as a member of the community without outing yourself as someone who was not born here,” she said.

She said she has seen people coming from other counties get their identification card, but the organization’s lack of partnership with other counties can lead to identification cards being unrecognized.

“It is better to have something than have nothing at all,” she said. 

The coalition hosts a semimonthly community ID drive.

At a recent event inside the Westminster Presbyterian Church’s community building, volunteers set up tables and various stations to provide information to those wanting a community ID card.

Beatriz Dominguez, 28, is a graduate student at the University of Florida who has been volunteering with the Human Rights Coalition since April. She said her volunteering work began with the desire to do more.

“I was frustrated doing research that was not going to help anybody,” Dominguez said. “I wanted to connect with my community.”

Dominguez is half Puerto Rican and half Chilean. Although she is a U.S. citizen, she said she can relate to immigrants’ struggles because she was once new to this country herself.

Magglorys Zelaya, a 53-year-old representative for the Rural Women’s Health Project, has lived in Gainesville for 25 years. Originally from Venezuela, she said being at the event helps her be more involved with the local Hispanic community.

She said she often has served as a witness for people looking to get their community ID cards, but who do not come with proof of address as required by Florida law.

“We can build a system that’s more humane,” Dominguez said.

The next Community ID drive will be on Wednesday, November 15 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church on 1521 NW 34 St.

Mariana is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing