Next Monday, the New Jersey Assembly is scheduled to consider a bill that would require criminal background checks for all state, county and municipal individuals handling vital statistic records. Assembly Bill 465 was first proposed in 2005, presumably in response to the 2004 arrest of Hudson County Deputy Registrar Jean Anderson, who inserted false birth certificates into the city’s records. Foreign born individuals then applied for and received a certified birth certificate based on the false information, which they then used to obtain US passports.

After the incident, the state limited Jersey City’s authority to issue birth certificates. Those born in the Hudson County community before 1965 (including several of my Davis cousins) must now get their certified copies from the state Department of Health in Trenton. It’s been eight years. One would think they could have double-checked all of the birth certificates in the city’s records against those filed with the state by now to allow the city to resume issuing certificates. But that’s another story.

The actions by the convicted clerk are serious. She assisted foreign-born individuals in assuming a false identity, securing false citizenship status and possibly compromising the national security. But I am not convinced that this bill would keep something like this from happening again.

There is no indication in any of the news accounts that Anderson had any prior offenses. If she didn’t, this legislation would not have disqualified her from being hired or prevented the incident from happening. Sadly, I think you will always find people who will violate the public trust for the right price.

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