Puerto Rico’s Birthers

You may or may not agree with my recent op ed (which has spread like wildfire from the Bellingham (Washington) Herald to the Cleveland Plain Dealer) that argues that Puerto Ricans are being saddled with an unfair burden by having their birth certificates invalidated en masse by the U.S. State Department and the so-called government of Puerto Rico.

But consider the reporting on the issue offered in today’s Newsday on the subject. You have to wonder, why is the government of Puerto Rico spreading misinformation as justification for this new law?

Yesterday, Puerto Rico’s Secretary of State Kenneth McClintock’s response to my op ed stated, “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.”

You’ll notice he doesn’t respond to my point that, in the rationale for the creation of the law that is cited in the legal document itself it says that the State Department says that of 8,000 of “passport fraud” cases it has studied (and there are no dates for this), 40% have involved the use of fraudulent Puerto Rican passports.

In many articles that have appeared from El Nuevo Dia and Primera Hora, Puerto Rico’s two largest dailies, both with strong ties to the current ruling party, it has been reported that fraudulent Puerto Rican birth certificates have caused an “identity fraud crisis” in the United States, and the only evidence used to support that is the dubious assertion that 40% of all of the cases of identity theft in the United States is tied to Puerto Rican birth certificates.

So then, you might ask, where does this figure come from? Is it, as McClintock claims, the State Department? This is the paragraph from page 2 of the law, under “Explanatory Statement”:

“According to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, situations in which the birth certificates of Puerto Ricans have been used are the source of approximately 40 percent of the 8,000 cases of passport fraud it has investigated.”

Here is a link to the English and Spanish versions of the law.

Below is the first page of a press release issued by the Puerto Rico State Department.

Paragraph four says that (my translation):

“McClintock Hernández maintained that Puerto Rico was the cause of 40 per cent of identity theft cases in the entire American nation.”

So, is it the U.S. State Department or the Puerto Rico State Department that is spreading disinformation?

Take heart America, throw out those paper shredders, and feel free to give your social security number and checking account pin numbers to whomever comes calling. By forcing millions of Puerto Ricans to get new birth certificates, your chances of having your identity stolen have fallen faster than…the stock market!


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