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According to an Associated Press report Saturday, every person with a Puerto Rican birth certificate will need to get a new one this year.  That's a big hassle.  And not that many people who are directly affected know about it yet and it could even interfere with their ability to vote in 2010 or beyond.  

Moreover, it's another example of the knots we twist ourselves into because we haven't addressed our broken immigration system.  Did I just say there was an immigration issue related to Puerto Ricans?  That doesn't make sense.  Read on...

Cross-posted at AlterNet's SpeakEasy...

This could turn into a very big story.  According to this Associated Press story written by Suzanne Gamboa Saturday, every person with a Puerto Rican birth certificate will need to get a new one this year.  A law passed in December invalidates all birth certificates issued by the Commonwealth as of July 1 of this year.

About a third of the 4.1 million Americans of Puerto Rican descent could be affected, AP reports.

The odd thing is, despite the fact that Puerto Ricans are born U.S. citizens, the reason for the new law relates to immigration.  Documents, especially identity documents that have Spanish-sounding names and confer automatic citizenship, are a hot property on the black market.

Puerto Ricans on average get about 20 copies of their birth certificates over their lifetimes, said Kenneth McClintock Hernandez, the commonwealth’s secretary of state.

This is because they are regularly asked to produce them for such events as enrolling children in school or joining sports leagues. Schools and other institutions have typically kept copies, a practice prohibited under the new law since January, McClintock said.

As much as 40 percent of the identity fraud in the U.S. involves birth certificates from Puerto Rico, McClintock said he was told by the State Department.

“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,” McClintock said.

Puerto Ricans are already getting greater scrutiny because of America’s vexing and often hysterical immigration debate.  As motor vehicle departments have gotten into the business of checking people’s immigration status – especially people with Spanish surnames and/or accents – Puerto Ricans are often asked for “green cards” they, of course, don’t have.

With GOP political strategists thinking up new ways each year to erect barriers to voting – especially for people they think may vote against them – the deadline for resolving this identity issue could have electoral implications in important states with large populations of citizens born in Puerto Rico.

But so far, AP reports, the word has not spread widely:

Rep. Jose Serrano, D-N.Y., has been getting a steady stream of calls about the law at his district office. Serrano — who must replace his birth certificate, too — said he is trying to provide answers without triggering a panic.

“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,” Serrano said.

Here’s an idea: What if the United States had a functioning legal immigration system that allowed people to come to the U.S. with visas within reasonable limits and within reasonable time frames?  What if that were combined with a tightly regulated system to get the millions of immigrants in the U.S. illegally into the system and legal?  Maybe then we wouldn’t have such a huge black market for false documents and wouldn’t have to twist ourselves in knots with workarounds like invalidating millions of birth certificates.  That’s what immigration reform is for, but the President and Congress don’t seem to be moving forward very quickly.

Read Gamboa’s AP story, but I suspect we’ll be hearing more about this…

Originally posted to GrayRiv on Sat Feb 27, 2010 at 08:00 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  thanks for diaring this (6+ / 0-)

    hope word gets out in time

    save our democracy! freespeechforpeople.org

    by thoughtful3 on Sat Feb 27, 2010 at 08:06:40 PM PST

  •  Thank you for this diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    maggiejean, GrayRiv

    This country is twisting itself up in knots to avoid addressing the real issue-a broken immigration system.  This is really going to have far ranging implications with the number of Puerto Rican born citizens residing outside of the island, but also for those who try to move around.  

    All compromise is based on give and take, but there can be no give and take on fundamentals. Mohandas Gandhi

    by MufsMom on Sat Feb 27, 2010 at 08:13:05 PM PST

  •  why the hell isn't DNC putting out (6+ / 0-)

    this information and well as other democrats. worthless Kaine.

  •  there is more to this than a new certificate (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    peacestpete

    probably a new status referendum is on its way next year or the next. it could include Puerto Ricans living in the US for the first time ever, puerto ricans in the US who are more inclined to vote for the sovereign commonwealth (enhancement of present status or free association) option or full independence, this could mean less people voting for those options, something the present gov. party of Puerto Rico would love...

  •  This is ridiculous. The anti (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    slatsg, peacestpete, Miggles, GrayRiv

    immigration people (and only anti non-white immigration) are over the top on this issue.  See Dobbs, Hannity, O'Reilly, Beck, et al.

    Just when you thought there wasn't a dime's worth of difference between the two parties, the Republicans go and prove you're wrong. Molly Ivins

    by maggiejean on Sat Feb 27, 2010 at 08:26:38 PM PST

  •  This is racism pure and simple (0+ / 0-)

    There is all kinds of ID theft going on in this country but the governement is targeting the puertorriquenos.  

    Excess ain't rebellion. You're drinking what they're selling. - Cake

    by slatsg on Sat Feb 27, 2010 at 09:32:09 PM PST

    •  this was a law enacted by the PR government (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      slatsg, MichaelNY, GrayRiv

      this is a law enacted by the Puerto Rican government not by the US gov. (the governing party is the pro statehood party PNP which is the right wing in the puerto rican politics spectrum)

      •  Thank you (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        GrayRiv

        That's what I get for posting at 1:30 in the morning and for not following the link.

        The story caught my attention because I was discussing illegal immigration last evening. Many folks don't realize that people from Puerto Rico are American citizens.

        My daughter-in-law is Boricua and my wife is a Mexican-American (which means, of course, that my son is a Latino too) so the issue hits home with me. I have become sensitive to the veiled language and the code words. Of course, no one is referring to members of our family ... because they are the "good ones".

        Excess ain't rebellion. You're drinking what they're selling. - Cake

        by slatsg on Sun Feb 28, 2010 at 04:29:40 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  How can we insure status without identity cards? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY, erush1345

    What if the United States had a functioning legal immigration system that allowed people to come to the U.S. with visas within reasonable limits and within reasonable time frames?  What if that were combined with a tightly regulated system to get the millions of immigrants in the U.S. illegally into the system and legal?  Maybe then we wouldn’t have such a huge black market for false documents and wouldn’t have to twist ourselves in knots with workarounds like invalidating millions of birth certificates.  

    How you going to accomplish all this?  We need identity cards, but no one wants to step forward and state it, no one from the left or the right.  Some one has to have a way to identify those here legally from those who are not, and what works except carrying a passport--not at all practical.  A few states have enhanced drivers licenses--combination drivers license and identity card.  Good idea, but extra cost.

    Plus, we must not allow all those here illegally to gain legal status.  We have too much cheap labor that drives down pay rates for those here legally--lots of places in the U.S. a legal worker cannot earn a living wage in construction and certain other trades.  We do not have the mobile labor we need for farm work.  It is a mess.

    •  Agree and don't (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY

      We do need an ID system that is practical and universal with privacy protections and clear, fair ways to correct errors.  Very expensive, but the alternatives are more expensive (the $ billions spent on enforcement, for one).

      I strongly disagree on part two.  We should weed out serious, violent criminals in a legalization process, but we want to include as many of the rest of the undocumented as possible.  What brings down wages and makes competition unfair (between workers, between employers and between workers and employers) is not the workers but the illegality.  

      We don't want to and (more importantly) will not remove large numbers of people living and working in the US and we don't want an underground.  Legalize them, get them in the system and create a functioning, flexible legal immigration system going forward. Solves labor market problems, taxation inequities, and security issues.

  •  I didn't think that I could be surprised... (5+ / 0-)

    ...any more by anything that pops up in the immigration debate.

    I was wrong.

    illegal, n. A term used by descendents of European immigrants to refer to descendants of Indigenous Americans

    by ricardomath on Sun Feb 28, 2010 at 04:55:25 AM PST

  •  In floriduh one needs a birth cert. a social ser. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    snazzzybird, sem

    card, an affidavit from the first person you ever had sex with, your registration from the first car you ever owned, a deed, and a Limburger cheese sandwich before you can get your drivers license renewed.

    "We are a Plutocracy, we ought to face it. We need, desperately, to find new ways to hear independent voices & points of view" Ramsey Clark, US AG

    by Mr SeeMore on Sun Feb 28, 2010 at 11:38:43 PM PST

  •  What if we stopped worrying about who someone (0+ / 0-)

    is and just focus on what they do?

    People migrate.  That's what mobile organisms do. Why do humans want to restrict where other humans go?

    http://www.youtube.com/cyprespond

    by hannah on Mon Mar 01, 2010 at 03:28:36 AM PST

  •  Orly Taitz Needs to Get On This (0+ / 0-)

    Where are the Birthers when you need them?

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