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LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The City Council approved a six-month pilot program allowing city agencies to accept identification cards issued by the Mexican consulate, giving thousands of immigrants greater access to government.

``This is an issue of human dignity and respect,'' City Councilman Nick Pacheco said Tuesday. ``This country has long respected all of our residents, and this is an extension of that respect.''

The cards are granted to both legal and illegal immigrants, and critics have said accepting them only encourages illegal entry to the United States.

Consular officials say the cards help with details of daily life impossible without identification, including proving they are 21 at bars, opening bank accounts and even signing up for library cards.

The cards are only issued to Mexican citizens with a birth certificate and a legitimate form of identification issued in Mexico, said Mexican Deputy Consul General Salvador Munoz.

They already are accepted as valid identification in San Francisco, Oakland, Phoenix and Chicago, and by the sheriff's departments in Los Angeles and Orange counties.