does not describe me fully
it is where to start

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Puerto Rican Identity - Birth Certificates

A recent AP article said, “Native Puerto Ricans living outside the island territory are reacting with surprise and confusion after learning their birth certificates will become no good this summer.”

This news got my attention. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens at birth, and while this new requirement does not imperil their U.S. citizenship, it highlights the unique political circumstance of Puerto Ricans.

The reason for the new requirement is a recently enacted island law targeted at combating identity theft. According to the U.S. State Department, as much as 40 percent of identity fraud in the U.S. involves birth certificates from Puerto Rico. It would be speculation on my part to say why that might be. Perhaps, for people needing Spanish surnames for entry into the US, a birth certificate from Puerto Rico is akin to gold. Another reason may be, according to Puerto Rican government official Kenneth D. McClintock, that in Puerto Rico, “…. birth certificates were required and filed away for everything in life, every school you registered in, every summer camp, ballet school, little league and other activities. Up until last December schools were broken into, not to steal computers, but old school records.”

Whatever the reasons for or the effectiveness of this new law, what is clear is that millions of Puerto Ricans must get new birth certificates this summer, including more than a third of the 4.1 million people of Puerto Rican descent living outside the island. The other thing that is predictable is that among those millions will be many irritated folks who probably can’t even remember the last time they had to access their birth certificate, but who now must obtain a new one. When was the last time you had to produce your birth certificate?

Related Post:


Nevine said...

This sounds like a severe and unnecessary inconvenience. There are so many cases of identity theft that have nothing to do with birth certificates as it is, I'm not so sure enacting a law like this would help so much. It seems that when the government looks to solve an enormous problem, they focus on the minutiae versus the big picture. It's not only an inconvenience. This is truly a misfortune, because an entire group of people has to suffer due to the irresponsibility of a few.


Sun Singer said...

What a mess. I always dread having to get a new, certified copy of my birth certificate. It costs money, takes time, and involves a tangle of red tape.

This law seems to be punishing everyone just because of the counterfeiting problem.


Kathryn Magendie said...

I would love to have my original birth certificate, if it still exists, with my birth mother's name on it...not that I do not honor my adoptive mother (my stepmother who adopted me)-it has her name on it as my mother - but , to have my birth mother listed on a document would be special to me.

Judith Mercado said...

Thank you for stopping by. Citizenship is so tied up with self identity that I had to write this post. Though in reality my national self identity was not in question, this issue at the very least made me think about it.

A Cuban In London said...

I think probably when I had to hand in some paperwork here in the UK. My birth certificate is also tied to the Cuban government's policies about Cubans living overseas.

You're right. A birth certificate throws up so many issues about identity, culture. The list is endless.

That was a most informative post. I have always been interested in how Puerto Ricans view their link to the US and their automatic citizenship.

Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Deborah said...

Judith, I read about this a few days ago in a Canadian newspaper but came here for a different reason. (In fact, it's quite interesting to read about it from the point of view of someone who is directly affected by the new ruling). Why I'm here is to say that your comment on Cuban's post about coffee, writing, etc etc included the phrase 'I've just made love to my writing and am basking in the afterglow' .

I loved this quote - it describes perfectly and poetically that feeling I get when I really like what I've written. So, I stole it, but gave you credit!! Cuban wanted you to know that it turned up on this blog

I hope you don't mind....maybe I should have asked first, but I tend to do things impulsively. :)