Last December, in an attempt to curb identity theft, the Puerto Rican government invalidated all previously issued Puerto Rican birth certificates as of July 1. 2010. This measure leaves many Puerto Ricans living in the United States in a rather uncomfortable position– No birth certificate.
People born in Puerto Rico are American citizens because Puerto Rico is an American territoy. However, their birth certificates come out of Puerto Rico. Some background from Yahoo News:
The change catches many off-guard and unaware.
Julissa Flores, 33, of Orlando, Fla., said she knew nothing about Puerto Rico’s law.
“I was planning a trip and now I don’t know,” she said. “Do I need to go get a passport? If my birth certificate is invalid, am I stuck here?”
People born in Puerto Rico, a U.S. commonwealth, are U.S. citizens at birth. Anyone using a stolen Puerto Rico birth certificate could enter and move about the U.S. more easily, which could also pose security problems.
Puerto Rico’s legislature passed the law after raids last March broke up a criminal ring that had stolen thousands of birth certificates and other identifying documents from several different schools in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Ricans on average get about 20 copies of their birth certificates over their lifetimes, said Kenneth McClintock Hernandez, the commonwealth’s secretary of state.
This is because they are regularly asked to produce them for such events as enrolling children in school or joining sports leagues. Schools and other institutions have typically kept copies, a practice prohibited under the new law since January, McClintock said.
As much as 40 percent of the identity fraud in the U.S. involves birth certificates from Puerto Rico, McClintock said he was told by the State Department.
“It’s a problem that’s been growing and as the need in the black market for birth certificates with Hispanic-sounding names grew, the black market value of Puerto Rican birth certificates has gone into the $5,000 to $10,000 range,” McClintock said.
Thus far, there seems to be little effort by the U.S. or Puerto Rican governmentsto educate the 1.5 million people born in Puerto Rico and living on the mainland about the new law.
Government officials in the US and in Puerto Rico have made very little effort to educate native Puerto Ricans about the change in the law, nor have they advised them how to resolve their problem of not having an official birth certificate. It seems to me that the Puerto Rican government needs to set up an office in every state to assist those people living in the United States. Certainly they don’t want to force them to return to Puerto Rico just for a birth certificate. How can millions of people be processed in 5 months.
This situation seems like a classical case of ‘Beware of unintended consequences.’