Texas Denying Birth Certificates for US-born Children of Illegal Immigrants

Texas Denying Birth Certificates for US-born Children of Illegal Immigrants © AP Photo/ Eric Gay

23:18 26.07.2015Get short URL

Seventeen illegal immigrants on Wednesday filed a motion to dismiss a civil rights lawsuit against the Texas Department of Health for denying them birth certificates for their US-born children.

The story continues for several other families seeking these documents.

“People never really came forward until we filed a suit,” said Jim Harrington, an attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project who represented the adult plaintiffs. “Then all of a sudden, it was like the doors opened and just maybe a couple hundred people so far have come forward talking about how this happened to them.”
The complaint initially filed in May argued that authorities were violating the US Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which states that any person born in the United States is a US citizen who can not be denied equal protection under the law while in US jurisdiction.

However, these families face bureaucratic roadblocks when trying to obtain these documents.

Regulations regarding the issuing of birth certificates vary from state to state. Since 1903,
Texans have had to seek these documents from local or state registrars.

Today, the Texas Vital Statistics Unit is refusing to provide illegal immigrants with birth certificates for their kids because the parents lack accepted forms of identification needed to verify their identities. These include US passports and US driver’s licenses.

Some undocumented immigrants have foreign passports, but these are not accepted as proper forms of ID to obtain a child’s birth certificate unless it’s accompanied by a US Visa. Foreign passports on their own, however, are accepted to generate US driver’s licenses.

“The state can ask for identification for people asking for birth certificates, but they need to accept reasonable forms of identification that will not completely exclude undocumented persons,” Jennifer Harbury, an attorney with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid who represented the children in the case. “They’ve made it so strict that they’ve locked most of the undocumented community out.”

Another form of ID that’s not accepted to gather a child’s birth certificate is a marticula consular, which is issued by Mexican consulates inside the US

One of the plaintiffs from Zacatecas, Mexico, told CBS News that she had tried using one in her five attempts to get a birth certificate for her child.

Chris Van Deusen, a spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services says these IDs are not considered reliable because the people who issue them do not verify the documents recipients use to establish their identities. He also argues that the rules surrounding the release of children’s birth certificates are in place to prevent fraud and identity theft.

“You do not want just anybody to represent themselves as a family member and get somebody else’s birth certificate,” he said.

In fact, many illegal immigrants get their hands on fake or stolen IDs on their way to the United States.

Still, several families continue trying to obtain birth certificates for their US-born children. These documents are vital for several tasks such as enrolling a child in school and it may be necessary to establish familial relationship when seeking medical care for a child — two issues the plaintiff from Zacatecas has dealt with before.

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