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Gov. Ducey Signs Delayed Birth Certificate Bill into Law

Cindy Carpien/NPR

Governor Doug Ducey has signed a bill that streamlines the process for Native Americans to obtain delayed birth certificates. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, the bill will open eligibility for a wide range of benefits to many more people.

A birth certificate is needed in order to vote, get a driver’s license or passport, and receive Social Security. But many Native Americans born before 1970 outside of hospitals were never issued one. The state’s new policy, which goes into effect in July, requires a tribal enrollment record verifying several birth facts and one additional document, like a medical record, with matching information.

Lena Fowler is the Coconino County Supervisor for District 5. She’s been working to reform the process for years.

“They will be recognized as citizens of the state of Arizona once they obtain their birth certificate with this easier process. I think that’s a huge weight off of people’s shoulder,” Fowler says.

In the past, seven documents were necessary to get a delayed birth certificate in Arizona, including a census record, military ID or marriage license. It proved to be costly and time consuming, and many applicants gave up trying. The new bill allows tribal members who’ve been denied a delayed birth certificate in the past to reapply.

Ryan Heinsius joined the KNAU newsroom as executive producer in 2013 and was named news director and managing editor in 2024. As a reporter, he has covered a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.
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