Racial Justice Press Release

09.01.10

Civil Rights Groups Decry State’s Refusal of Identification Documents to Some Citizens

Groups Urge Governor to Accept Valid Puerto Rican Birth Certificates

Read the letter to the Ohio Department of Public Safety and Governor Strickland.

CLEVELAND- Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, Hispanic Alliance, and League of United Latin American Citizens Ohio called on Governor Strickland to direct the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to accept all valid forms of identification from American citizens born in Puerto Rico who wish to obtain a state-issued ID. The BMV recently announced they would no longer accept Puerto Rican birth certificates issued before July 1, 2010, even though they are still valid.

Earlier this year, Puerto Rico passed a law requiring that all birth certificates be reissued in order to combat identity theft. On September 30, 2010, all birth certificates issued prior to July 1, 2010 will become invalid. However, the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles has preemptively said they will no longer accept Puerto Rican birth certificates effective immediately. Reportedly, Ohio is the only state to preemptively reject these birth certificates.

“A state-issued ID is vital for people to access important social services, employment, voting, and travel throughout the country. This poses an increased challenge to thousands of American citizens born in Puerto Rico who wish to exercise these fundamental rights,” said Hispanic Alliance Director Carlos Chinchilla. “By not having equal access to these programs, many communities around the state will suffer.”

LULAC Ohio State Director Jason Riveiro said, “It is fundamentally unfair to treat one group of citizens differently than another. The BMV has left many citizens around the state in limbo, as they must wait weeks or months before the Puerto Rican government can issue them a new birth certificate. Many people do not have other acceptable forms of ID other than their birth certificate, and were given little or no warning by the BMV that they would not accept their documents.”

“Governor Strickland must stand up for the equal rights of all American citizens,” added ACLU of Ohio Legal Director James L. Hardiman. “While it is laudable for the government to protect against fraud and identity theft, this policy has effectively made citizens born in Puerto Rico ‘second-class citizens’ without a state-issued ID. The BMV should respect Puerto Rico’s laws and accept all valid birth certificates.”

All people born in Puerto Rico are United States citizens. According to news reports, over 65,000 Puerto Ricans live in the greater Cleveland area, with thousands more throughout the state.