(April 21) — In a dra­mat­ic bid to end fraud, iden­ti­ty theft and ille­gal immi­gra­tion, Puer­to Rico is void­ing all birth cer­tifi­cates issued before July 1, 2010 — forc­ing more than 5 mil­lion peo­ple to apply for new ones.

The move will “pro­tect the iden­ti­ty of all Puer­to Ricans born on the island, and at the same time help the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment with nation­al secu­ri­ty issues,” Luis Balzac, spokesman for the Puer­to Rico Fed­er­al Affairs Admin­is­tra­tion, said in a phone inter­view with AOL News.

Luis Balzac, spokesman for the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, said the decision to void the birth certificates will "protect the identity of all Puerto Ricans."

Luis Balzac, spokesman for the Puer­to Rico Fed­er­al Affairs Admin­is­tra­tion, said the deci­sion to void the birth cer­tifi­cates will “pro­tect the iden­ti­ty of all Puer­to Ricans.”

Accord­ing to the U.S. depart­ments of State and Home­land Secu­ri­ty, Puer­to Rican birth cer­tifi­cates account for about 40 per­cent of all cas­es of pass­port fraud every year, ABC reports.

Under the law, which was passed in Decem­ber, some 4 mil­lion island res­i­dents and anoth­er 1.2 Puer­to Ricans liv­ing in the Unit­ed States will lose their cur­rent birth cer­tifi­cates. They must apply for new ones that have been redesigned to be less sus­cep­ti­ble to fraud.

In the law, the Puer­to Rican leg­is­la­ture says the island’s birth cer­tifi­cates “facil­i­tate crim­i­nal con­duct of all types,” such as “fraud­u­lent­ly obtain­ing immi­gra­tion ben­e­fits, nar­cotics traf­fick­ing, cred­it pro­cure­ment, ter­ror­ism and the traf­fick­ing of women and children.”

The fact that Puer­to Ricans are U.S. cit­i­zens makes their birth cer­tifi­cates a hot com­mod­i­ty, espe­cial­ly among res­i­dents of oth­er Span­ish-speak­ing regions who use them via iden­ti­ty-theft schemes as their tick­et into the Unit­ed States. The doc­u­ments some­times sell for tens of thou­sands of dollars.

“There is an enor­mous val­ue increase in Puer­to Rican birth cer­tifi­cates because they are a gate­way for a U.S. pass­port for peo­ple who are not enti­tled to one,” Adam Levin, chair­man of a U.S‑based iden­ti­ty-theft com­pa­ny, told the Mia­mi Herald.

Ear­li­er this year, the New York Dai­ly News report­ed that Cal­i­for­nia, Ohio and Neva­da had all stopped accept­ing Puer­to Rican birth cer­tifi­cates as a valid form of ID.

Like oth­er U.S. cit­i­zens, Puer­to Ricans use birth cer­tifi­cates to gain access to Med­ic­aid and Social Secu­ri­ty ben­e­fits. But, in a twist that makes the doc­u­ments even eas­i­er to use ille­gal­ly, the island’s res­i­dents also use them for every­day activ­i­ties like reli­gious events and sign­ing their chil­dren up for baseball.

“The com­mon prac­tice is that we would pro­vide a cer­ti­fied copy of our birth cer­tifi­cate and leave it behind,” Balzac said. “The result is that a base­ball coach may not have a secure loca­tion to keep these birth cer­tifi­cates, and we end up with a mass amount of cer­ti­fied copies out in the mar­ket. This law will stop that.”

In 2008 the Puer­to Rican Office of Vital Sta­tis­tics issued 860,000 birth cer­tifi­cates, but only 45,622 chil­dren were born that year, ABC reports.

U.S. Rep. Jose Ser­ra­no, D‑N.Y., who is Puer­to Rican, said the law could prove to be a bureau­crat­ic night­mare for Puer­to Ricans liv­ing in the Unit­ed States. “My office is being inun­dat­ed with ques­tions about this new pol­i­cy,” he told ABC. “This could be a major prob­lem for many of my con­stituents’ appli­ca­tions for ben­e­fits, pass­ports and dri­ver’s licens­es, among oth­er things.”

Puer­to Ricans can apply for a new birth cer­tifi­cate online for $5 on July 1.