Identification cards issued by the governments of all Latin American countries would be recognized by Cook County under an ordinance amendment approved Tuesday by the county's Finance Committee.
The county and the City of Chicago already accept the ID card, known in Spanish as the matricula consular, issued by the Mexican government.
Cook County Commissioner Roberto Maldonado, a Chicago Democrat, sponsored the ordinance to extend the recognition to all Latin American countries.
The cards are valuable to undocumented immigrants who do not have ID cards. They have been criticized by conservative politicians and anti-immigration groups who say the cards represent a tacit acceptance of illegal immigration.
Maldonado said the card would help the county by giving immigrants a valid piece of identification to show, for example, when they use the county's health facilities.
"It would simply protect the county by accepting a true identity by that card holder," Maldonado said.
The Finance Committee, a committee of the whole, approved the amendment 9-3 with five commissioners absent.
The most vocal opponent was Commissioner Carl Hansen (R-Mt. Prospect), who cited security and economic concerns.
"If you want to protect any of your nationals, issue a passport," Hansen said to a group of Latin American consuls general attending the meeting.
Guatemala began issuing such cards last year. The governments of Ecuador and Honduras have approved them and should begin producing the cards in the coming months, consuls general representing those countries said.
"This is a very important step in the second stage of this, which is extending what the Mexicans have already got," said Alexandre Addor-Neto, the consul general of Brazil in Chicago. "This is politically and symbolically important."
Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan supports extending recognition of the card, particularly as a measure of consumer protection against financial fraud and for law-enforcement purposes, said Patricia Mendoza, chief of the office's civil rights bureau.
Peter Garza, president of the Hispanic Illinois State Law Enforcement Association, said the group also supports the expanded recognition.
"In terms of this being a good thing for law enforcement, it's a step in the right direction," said Garza, adding that stopping an immigrant without an ID can severely complicate an investigation.