A law enacted in Dec. of 2009 by Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuño has effectively left one third of the Puerto Rican population living in the United States without valid birth certificates. In an attempt to gain control of the identity theft rampant in the commonwealth, Fortuño signed a law into effect making all birth certificates processed prior to Dec. 2009 invalid for use in any federal agency.
"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," Kenneth McClintock Hernandez, the Puerto Rican secretary of state, told the Associated Press.
Many of the 4.1 million Latinos of Puerto Rican descent who live stateside are reacting with confusion and surprise upon realizing that their birth certificates are no longer valid forms of identification. All Puerto Ricans are United States citizens at birth due to the islands unique status as an American commonwealth. This status makes birth certificates of Puerto Ricans high value targets for other Latinos looking to immigrate into the United States illegally. McClintock says that a staggering 40% of the identity fraud in the United States can be traced back to Puerto Rican birth certificates.
But the problem does not seem to stem from the fact that the government of the small island nation is attempting to curb identity fraud; but rather that there has been little to no effort by the United States or Puerto Rican governments to educate their citizens about the changes in the law and how to go about getting new, valid birth certificates.
Rep. Jose Serrano, D-N.Y.— who must replace also his birth certificate— has been fielding a steady stream of calls since the new laws were passed, "No one has thought about what effect this could have, if any, on those of us born in Puerto Rico who now reside in the 50 states."