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Puerto Rico Extends Deadline To Get New Birth Certificates

Mark Spencer

July 01, 2010

Puerto Ricans born on the island who need new birth certificates, which were originally scheduled to become invalid today, have been given a 90-day reprieve to apply for the documents.

The extension was welcome news on the mainland, especially in Hartford, which has one of the largest populations of island-born Puerto Ricans in the country. Some Puerto Ricans here have criticized the island's government for making such a significant change with inadequate public communication, causing confusion.

State officials and community leaders have been scrambling to get the word out since learning in March that all Puerto Rico birth certificates would be invalidated for security reasons.

"I think it's wonderful they've extended it so we can better prepare for the change-over," said Werner Oyanadel, acting director of the state Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission. "It gives us more time to educate the Puerto Rican community about the new law."

The law requiring the new birth certificates was adopted by the commonwealth Dec. 22 after the U.S. departments of State and Homeland Security told Puerto Rico officials that stolen birth certificates were being used to fraudulently obtain documents, such as passports, or for identity theft.

In a custom unique to the island, Puerto Ricans, who are U.S. citizens, were required to provide original birth certificates for an array of activities, such as enrolling in school. The organizations kept the documents, but few stored them securely. As a result, there are as many as 20 million unsecured birth certificates on the island, with some ending up on the black market.

Nicole Guillemard, executive director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, said in a statement that the new law was recently amended to extend the deadline to Sept. 30.

Island officials in recent weeks have been urging mainland Puerto Ricans not to apply for a new birth certificate now unless they have an immediate need, hoping to avoid a logjam that could delay issuing new ones.

Guillemard said that Puerto Rico's Demographic Registry recently hired 47 temporary workers to process new birth certificate applications.

In Connecticut, the Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission has sponsored a publicity campaign that included print, radio and television ads. That campaign is ending and the commission has switched its focus to helping people apply for new birth certificates, which the island government will begin issuing today.

Oyanadel said the commission has been getting about 60 telephone calls a day from people seeking information or help. A work station has been set up at the commission's Trinity Street office where employees will help people apply online and scan the necessary documents.

State Farm Insurance also has trained about 20 agents in the state to help people apply. Rose Fonseca, a multicultural marketing specialist with the company, said the agents have been fielding about 20 calls a day.

An appointment with the commission may be made by calling 860-240-8330, where referrals to State Farm agents also are available.

The state government departments also have been preparing for the change. The Department of Motor Vehicles cannot accept old Puerto Rico birth certificates after Sept. 30, but other agencies have more flexibility.

David Dearborn, a spokesman for the state Department of Social Services, said other forms of identification are acceptable for many of its programs. Information on appropriate identification is available at http://www.ct.gov/dss.

In Hartford, school officials said the district will accept old birth certificates as identification for children enrolling, although new documents will be required next year.

Online applications for new birth certificates are available at http://www.pr.gov. Information in English and Spanish about the new law is available at http://www.prfaa.com/birthcertificates/.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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