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?