Society

Judge: Texas Health Officials May Deny Birth Certificates To Immigrants' Children

| by Kathryn Schroeder
Nogales Mexico ChildNogales Mexico Child

A federal judge ruled on Oct. 16 that Texas health officials will not be required to grant birth certificates to immigrant families with U.S.-born children.

U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman in Austin, Texas, said the Mexican families in the case raised “grave concerns” but more evidence is needed to attain birth certificates, Yahoo News reports.

The ruling was made as part of an emergency injunction on behalf of immigrant families who are seeking birth certificates for their children after the Department of State Health Services refused to recognize the forms of identification the families provided.

The birth certificates are needed so the children may have access to healthcare, travel, and schooling.

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The parents of the children entered the country illegally from Mexico and Central America, but under the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment, citizenship is guaranteed to children born here.

If they were to enroll their children in school without a birth certificate, they would have to produce a signed note explaining why the child is without one. By doing so, they would admit to being in the country illegally and that would “expose them to potential criminal liability and removal from the United States,” according to Judge Pitman.

The identification cards — known as matriculas consulares — the families gave Health Services are issued by Mexican consulates to citizens living and working in the United States. This document, as well as foreign passports without U.S. visas in them, were accepted prior to 2013 in order to obtain a birth certificate, the families said.

Judge Pitman found that the families’ attorneys had not shown that health officials had improperly “focused on and excluded” the documents.

He also questioned the integrity of the consulate identification cards and passports.

"A birth certificate is a vital and important document," Judge Pitman said, according to Yahoo News. "As such, Texas has a clear interest in protecting access to that document."

While Judge Pitman found the families arguments “heartfelt, compelling, and persuasive,” he said this was “not enough without substantiating evidence to carry the burden necessary to grant relief.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton found the ruling to be an “important first step in ensuring the integrity of birth certificates and personal identity information,” The Dallas Morning News reports. "Before issuing any official documents, it’s important for the state to have a way to accurately verify people are who they say they are through reliable identification mechanisms."

The lawyer representing the children, Jennifer Harbury of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, said Texas must create a way for them to obtain birth certificates.

"It may not," Harbury said, "establish an obstacle course for these children alone."

Sources: Yahoo News, The Dallas Morning News / Photo credit: Ken Bosma/Flickr