Thursday, April 02, 2015

Delayed birth certificate bill goes to governor

 Delayed birth certificate bill goes to governor

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Today, the Arizona House of Representatives passed a Senate bill identical to the one sponsored by Rep. Albert Hale, D-St. Michaels (District 7), which would codify recent action by the Arizona Department of Health Services to make it easier for Native Americans to obtain a delayed birth certificate in the state.

“The Senate bill is now identical to the bill I introduced and which this House passed in February,” Hale said, adding that his bill was held in the Senate for “political reasons.”

“It’s the game we play here,” he said. “But it doesn’t matter. This change is needed by many of the people in my district. And we have been working on this issue for years.”

This bill would make permanent the Arizona Department of Health Services policy that streamlined the process for Native Americans to receive delayed birth certificates. Previously, getting a delayed birth certificate required producing multiple forms of verification that a person was born at a specific time and place.  Many Native Americans are born at home and do not get a birth certificate issued at the time of birth, and securing the necessary documentation is often difficult. A birth certificate is important documentation for receiving social security and other benefits.

Hale recognized the efforts of Coconino County Supervisor Lena Fowler in crafting the legislation. Fowler highlighted the difficulties people face trying to collect the documentation currently needed.

“Native Americans from all reaches of our state have to make several trips to Phoenix and produce various documents to verify that they were born at a specific time and place. It is not uncommon that many of them speak no English. Some are among the most traditional Native Americans and should be considered living treasures. In case after case, it was apparent that all the requirements were both overwhelming and incomprehensible,” she said. “This legislation will improve the quality of life for Native Americans in all 22 tribes in Arizona, and it will allow many people to prove their citizenship and their eligibility for services.”

Several of Hale’s colleagues thanked him and Fowler for their work. Rep. Jennifer Benally, D-Tuba City (District 7), is a former Navajo Nation district court judge. She said some people spent years trying to get their birth certificates.

“As a judge, I saw people in my court stuck in the process of getting a birth certificate for up to 15 years,” Benally said. “Sometimes, they just gave up. This legislation is very important, and Supervisor Fowler and Rep. Hale have been working on it for years. I am grateful for their efforts.”

The bill now goes to the governor’s office.

Rep. Hale is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. He was born in Ganado and raised in Klagetoh, Arizona. He is Ashiihi (Salt), born for Todichiini (Bitter Water). His maternal grandparents are Hanaghani (Walk About clan). His paternal grandparents are Kiyanii (Tall House clan). He is a 1969 graduate of Fort Wingate High School, a Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school located east of Gallup, New Mexico. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona (1973), and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of New Mexico School of Law, Albuquerque, New Mexico (1977), and an honorary Juris Doctor degree from Phoenix School of Law (2012).  He is the former President of the Navajo Nation.

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