EDITORIAL : It’s shocking more than 1 million native Puerto Ricans in the U.S.: As of July 1, their birth certificates will be worth nothing. Replacing them is shaping up as a potential nightmare.
“My (husband) is not a happy man,” one woman wrote, wondering whether the commonwealth’s new system can withstand a flood of requests. “It’s going to be a cluster(expletive).”
Think of this island, one that just recently underwent a round of government layoffs, trying to process that many requests. July 1 is around the corner.
The Puerto Rico Legislature adopted the measure back in December, claiming it would help fight widespread ID theft. It promised new, more secure birth certificates. Only it got very little press here.
They couldn’t even publicize it. How are they going to implement it?
Unfortunately, it affects more than one-third of the 4.1 million people of Puerto Rican descent living in the United States — many who were actually born here. To think: A source of pride, kept safe and unsoiled in an envelope (maybe even inside another envelope) tucked away safety in a special place, is suddenly not worth the paper it’s printed on.
The same goes for the birth certificates that Puerto Rico has updated over the past two decades, with watermarks and various other measures that make them extremely difficult to forge.
The one saving grace: Only Puerto Ricans who have birth certificates issued by the commonwealth’s Health Department, through its Vital Statistics Record Office, must seek a new document.
If so, here’s what you must do: Go to www.prfaa.com, where you can print a copy of a request form you must mail to the Puerto Rico Vital Statistics Record Office in San Juan. You’ll be told to include a copy of a valid government-issued photo ID, along with a money order for the fee and a self-addressed stamped envelope.
The fee is $5, with an additional charge of $4 for each copy. The Puerto Rican Federal Affairs Administration says there will be no exemption because of age. However, individuals over 60 and veterans will have their fee waived.
It’s a pain, but Puerto Rico’s leaders say they have no choice, not with stolen birth certificates — which can be used to obtain other means of identification — selling for up to $10,000 each.
We’ve seen it here in North Jersey, with the State Department refusing to accept county-issued birth records since 2004. You have to go through your local town — unless you live in Jersey City or Secaucus, which means contacting the state Office of Vital Statistics in Trenton.
If you already have another government-issued ID, such as a passport or driver’s license, the Puerto Rican government asks that you wait until after the deadline to request a new birth certificate. It could help reduce the cluster.
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