Sunday, February 28, 2010

Kenneth D. McClintock Rebuttal of: Ed Morales on Puerto Rico Birth Certificates

I received this communique from Kenneth D. McClintock, Secretary of State, Puerto Rico via email shortly after posting: Ed Morales on Puerto Rico Birth Certificates.....


A few comments in italics regarding Morales' column in your blog:

Puerto Rico's government wants its people to believe that they are the cause of an identity fraud crisis, and to correct the problem it is treating them like second-class citizens.

It isn't our government but the US State Department that has expressed that nearly 40 percent of ID fraud cases they've investigated relating to birth certificates involve birth certificates from PR.

Last December, Puerto Rico's governor, Luis Fortuno, signed a law that invalidates all copies of certified Puerto Rican birth certificates. As a result, everyone born in Puerto Rico before this coming July will have to request a new copy. The reason: It's a matter of U.S. national security.

Most Puerto Rico-born residents of PR and the states will eventually need to request a new birth certificate, but only when they anticipate the need for one when a passport or drivers license will not suffice. No need to rush.

Or at least that's what the State Department of Puerto Rico would have their own people believe.

More than national security, it's a matter of personal security, of securing protection for the identity of 5.2 million Puerto Rico-born residents of Puertro Rico and the states who are at greater risk of having their identity stolen than other Americans.. Just last evening I ran into a Puerto Rican who thanked me for the law since her identity was stolen by an Ecuadoran undocumented immigrant, putting her Social Security and other benefits at risk.

In a press release, Puerto Rico's Secretary of State Kenneth McClintock-Hernandez asserted that there was an identity fraud crisis in the United States that was set off by thousands of copies of Puerto Rican birth certificates that are just floating around. McClintock went on to say that 40 percent of all identity theft cases in the United States are caused by fraudulent use of Puerto Rican birth certificates.

The problem is that in Puerto Rico, birth certificates were required and filed away for everything in life, every school you registered in, every summer camp, ballet school, little league and other activities. Up until last December schools were broken into, not to steal computers, but old school records. There are probably millions of birth certificates unsecurely filed in cardboard bozes in schools, the trunk of your little league coach, and so forth, each worth, until last December, $5-10,000 in the black market.

In fact, it was reported by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Diplomatic Security that Puerto Rican birth certificates have been used in about 40 percent of passport fraud incidents it has recently investigated. Not 40 percent of all U.S. identity fraud cases.

And while it is true that there is a problem involving the use of Puerto Rican birth certificates, this hardly constitutes a threat large enough to invalidate the identity proof of an entire island of 4 million U.S. citizens. Plus, the minimum cost of $5 per birth certificate imposed by the government comes off as a desperate move to raise money for an economy racked by high unemployment and recession.

On the contrary, the average Puerto Rican purchases at least 15-20 certificates over their lifetime. With the new law, which prohibits anyone keeping your birth certificate, you'll probably need one or two over your lifetime. The Registro Demográfico stands to lose over 90% of its birth certificate revenue, but so be it if we can cut the number of Puerto Ricans who become victims of identity theft.

The law is an unnecessary burden on Puerto Ricans on the island, as well as those born there and currently living in the United States. Would a similar-sized U.S. state, such as Kentucky (population also 4 million), be treated this way? A recommitment to immigration reform would do a lot more to combat the problem of identity fraud than punishing millions of American citizens.

Most of the people seeking stolen birth certificates that will prove birth and citizenship probably are not seeking one stolen from a Kentuckyan, but are more interested in one of a Puertro Rican. While the Fortuño administration is committed to immigration reform, thousands of Puerto Ricans will fall victim to identity theft if we waited for that to happen.

Puerto Ricans don't deserve being a scapegoat for a much larger problem.

For decades our society needlessly demanded birth certificates for everything, stored them unsecurely and exposed our people to the huge headache of identity fraud. Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.

Finally, in a nutshell, the law prohibits keeping someone else's birth certificate in Puerto Rico, requires the issuance of more secure birth certificates after July 1, keeps the price at $5, maintains the current payment exemptions (over 60 and veterans), and does not change the methods for requesting them (mail and in person).

Kenneth D. McClintock
Secretary of State
United States Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
P.O. Box 9066291
San Juan PR 00906-6291

787-722-4010 ofc
787-722-2684 fax

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