Puerto Rican-Born New Yorkers Have To Get New Birth Certificates
A new law forces any New Yorker who was born in Puerto Rico to get a new birth certificate after July 1, due to the rising wave of identity theft among people who come from the U.S. commonwealth. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.
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Identity thieves interested in buying someone else's birth certificate may not have to look very hard, as Puerto Ricans in New York say a certificate from Puerto Rico is easy to find.
The government of Puerto Rico says hundreds of thousands of copies of birth certificates from the island are floating around unprotected and can sell for as much as $10,000.
"Puerto Ricans are selling the birth [certificates]," said one Bronx resident. "They got so many in here pretending to be Puerto Rican, but they are not."
An old law required Puerto Rican residents to leave original copies of their birth certificates in various public and private offices as they filled out paperwork, which opened the door to massive identity theft.
"If you physically look Latino or physically look Puerto Rican, and you show up with a Puerto Rican birth certificate, no questions are asked," said Bronx Congressman Jose Serrano. "Because Puerto Ricans, as you know, are born American citizens and can just leave Puerto Rico and travel to the United States."
Now, a new law that takes effect on July 1 will force anyone born in Puerto Rico to get a new birth certificate.
"The objective of this law is it will invalidate the old birth certificates so that they will lose their value on the black market," said Luis Balzac of the office of Puerto Rico's governor.
Serrano is among the Puerto Rican-born New Yorkers who need new certificates. He says the law is a good move but that there is already concern and confusion in his district.
"There are people who have called my office who say they have seen things on the Internet that say they are going to lose their citizenship," said Serrano.
Many people along Third Avenue in the Bronx who were born in Puerto Rico told NY1 they had not heard about the new rule, and thought it would be difficult trying to get a new birth certificate.
"It has been rough trying to get the old one. The new one, with what's this going on now, I doubt it. It's like I am an illegal alien now," said a Puerto Rican-born Bronx resident.
"I don't know what to do, what steps should I do?" said another.
Officials urge those affected by the law to contact the Puerto Rican Health Department.
"Through the mail, using the Internet, by fax, through the phone, the same way it was done before," said Balzac.
Yet officials say Puerto Ricans should not rush to get their certificates, as the new certificates will only be available after July 1.