At the time I wrote this, the approach I've described to get Hugo a birth certificate would work; one Internet site advertised the service. I'm not sure if sites like that one are still in operation, but I suspect there's similar stuff.
Yes, I know quite well that it's possible to find infants who were already assigned Social Security numbers but then died in infancy, which is the method often used in fiction of this nature, but that's more problematic because of the age factor; I discarded the idea immediately. Hugo's about 26, which would today put his birth date at 1990 or so, and on-line (or even in-person) research wouldn't uncover such a deceased infant whose death hadn't been pretty fully documented.
I also wanted to be fairly vague about the methodology and not lay out a blueprint for anyone seeking to evade the law in this way, and yet be sufficiently specific to make my fiction as realistic as possible.
You know, I can remember a time in my life when identity wasn't so important as it is today. In the present day one can't really even walk the streets without ID that any law-enforcement official can inspect on demand. Hotels and motels won't rent without seeing identification, you can't open a bank account without it, children must show it to attend school, and it goes on and on. Back 50 years ago or so you could pass anonymously through life if you chose; today your Social Security identifier is your passport to living in American society. I understand it, I suppose, but I truly miss the old days when one's word and one's presence was enough to get along with.