The new birth certificates won’t be issued until July 1, but officials from Puerto Rico and Connecticut want to make sure the more than 82,000 island-born Puerto Ricans living in the Nutmeg state know how to go about applying for a new birth certificate.
“There’s a lot of misinformation out there,” Rep. Minnie Gonzalez, D-Hartford, said Tuesday at a Capitol press conference.
She said one of the misconceptions is that somebody will have to go to Puerto Rico and pick up the new birth certificate. That’s not a case.
Luis Balzac, regional director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, said the new birth certificates can be obtained either online or by mail.
The new birth certificates won’t be available until July 1, and both Balzac and Gonzalez urged people to be patient.
“You will not have to run out and get a new birth certificate immediately,” Gonzalez said. Balzac urged people to be patient with the government of Puerto Rico, which expects to be inundated with requests.
He said the Puerto Rican legislature is considering extending the validity of the current birth certificates for 90 days past the July 1 start of the new certificates, but the legislation hasn’t been passed yet. Gonzalez said she thinks the legislation has a good chance.
Hartford City Councilman Luis Cotto wonders how much flexibility schools and other state agencies like the Department of Motor Vehicles will give people who present them with the old birth certificates.
“I don’t think this is as cut and dry as they thought,” Cotto said. There’s a lot of variables here for a lot of people from the elderly to children, he said.
A representative from the Department of Motor Vehicles was at the press conference and said the department stands ready to assist customers and will be as flexible as it can be under the law.
Balzac urged people who don’t need the birth certificate right away to wait. He said even though a 16 year old may want to get a drivers license, it’s more important a 65 year old have access to Medicare and Social Security.
Where did the need for new birth certificates come from?
In December 2009, after raids broke up a criminal ring that had stolen thousands of birth certificates from Puerto Rican schools, and under pressure from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security the Puerto Rican government enacted Law 191, which will invalidate all Puerto Rican-issued birth certificates in an effort to help prevent fraud and identity theft.
On the island original copies of birth certificates were required for everything from enrolling children in school to joining a youth baseball league, Balzac said.
He said every year his mother gave an original or “true” copy of the birth certificate over to his baseball coach and school.
“My baseball coach didn’t have a secure system in place to store the certificates,” Balzac said.
On an island with a population of about 4 million people, the government was issuing 1 million birth certificates a year, Balzac said. He said under the new system starting July 1, no one, but the holder of the birth certificate, will be able to keep a copy of it. He said the government hopes to reduce potential fraud and identity theft.
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