Native Puerto Ricans need new birth certificates
AIYANA BAIDASEBRING - Native Puerto Ricans, including those living in the United States, now have to apply for new birth certificates beginning July 1, as a result of a new law to protect them against identity theft and tighten border security.
Published: March 5, 2010
Published: March 5, 2010
The law invalidates birth certificates issued before July 1, 2010 to native Puerto Ricans. Although the change may impact Highlands County's estimated 3,000 Puerto Ricans, many are welcoming it.
Julio Perez, owner of Julio's Latin Market in Sebring, said he heard about the change through word of mouth and is pleased something is finally being done.
"I don't think it will be a hassle to anyone except those that have falsified birth certificates," Perez said.
In 1967, 67-year-old Perez moved to the United States from Puerto Rico, a U.S. Commonwealth. He said back then fraud was a common practice on the island.
"Anyone could get a fake birth certificate and ID," he said.
The Highlands County chapter president of the League of United Latin American Citizens Patricia Austin has received numerous calls from local Puerto Ricans inquiring about the change.
"So far, people are in agreement with it... They don't seem to be alarmed," Austin said.
Years of fraudulent activity led to new law
The new law came about after thousands of birth certificates and other forms of identity were stolen from Puerto Rican schools by a criminal ring last March, according to the Associated Press.
The law was a collaborate effort between the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Homelands Security to combat fraud, which is a prevailing problem in Puerto Rico.
Kenneth McClintock, Puerto Rico secretary of state, told the Associated Press that Puerto Ricans get an average of 20 copies of their birth certificates in their lifetimes- increasing their risk of identity theft- and an average of 40 percent of identity fraud in the United States involves birth certificates from the island.
Luis M. Balzac, regional director of Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, based in New York, said it was common for Puerto Ricans to give copies of their birth certificates or copies of their children's certificates to coaches and other organizations when asked for identification.
"The law would prevent Puerto Ricans from leaving their birth certificate with an organization that may not have the security measures to protect those documents," Balzac said.
The new law states that birth certificates are to be presented not given if needed as a form of identification.
"The objective is to protect their identity, their credit and protect our citizens and our borders," Balzac said.
Things to know about new law
The law, which went into effect on Jan. 1, states that all birth certificates issued by Puerto Rico before July 1, 2010 are invalid.
Native Puerto Ricans can request their new birth certificates on or after that date as needed. There is a $5 fee that is waived for those who are 60 and older or veterans.
To avoid clogging the system with requests, Puerto Rican officials are recommending that those who need copies of their birth certificates request it first, and others who want the new certificates for their records request them at a later date.
The law does not affect issued forms of identification that require a birth certificate. For example driver's licenses, passports, social security cards remain valid.
For more information, visit http://www.prfaa.com or http://www.salud.gov.pr
Highlands Today reporter Aiyana Baida can be reached at 863-386-5855 or firstname.lastname@example.org