PR Gov. Must Extend Transition for Birth Certificate Law

March 11, 2010

Contact: John Garcia (212) 739-7513

The governor of Puerto Rico must extend the transition period of a new law that invalidates millions of birth certificates because the law is already causing confusion for government officials and residents on the island and in the mainland United States.

LatinoJustice PRLDEF has sent a letter to the governor pointing to mounting problems with the new law, which was expected to go into effect on July 1, 2010.

The letter details that several states have already started denying the use of birth certificates from Puerto Ricans for ID and driver’s licenses purposes.

Creating confusion over birth certificates only fuels the real anti-Latino sentiment that has led to the escalating mandate to document the identity of Latinos for obtaining jobs, driver’s licenses, and government benefits.

“We are getting calls from all over the country and people are telling us they are confused about what impact this change has on them and what they need to do,” said Cesar Perales, President and General Counsel, LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “Clearly the government has not done a good job of publicizing and explaining this law. No one seems to know what to do.”

People born in Puerto Rico, a U.S. commonwealth, are U.S. citizens at birth. Puerto Rico's legislature said they passed the law after raids last March broke up a criminal ring that had stolen thousands of birth certificates and other identifying documents from several different schools in Puerto Rico.

The law states that all birth certificates issues before July 1, 2010 would have to be replaced. Birth certificates are frequently used to obtain driver’s licenses, passports and as identification for many government services. Thus far, there seems to be little effort by the U.S. or Puerto Rico governments to educate the 1.5 million people born in Puerto Rico who now live on the mainland about the law.

Though the law does not go into effect until July 1, California, Ohio and Nevada have already stated they would not accept any birth certificates from Puerto Rico as proof of birth for driver’s licenses. This could effectively leave thousands of Puerto Ricans born on the island with no way of getting driver’s licenses in those states.

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