A district court judge in Texas ruled Friday that the state of Texas can continue their practice of denying U.S. birth certificates to U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants, a practice that flies flagrantly in the face of the 14th Amendment. As of now, if parents are able to provide only a consular documentation to state health officials, the state can refuse to issue U.S. birth certificates for any children they may have within U.S. territory.
The case in question was brought by a group of families who had been denied U.S. birth certificates for children born in the U.S. because parents presented matriculas consulares, documents issued from Mexico to citizens working within the U.S., as their only form of identification. These families filed an emergency injunction in May 2015, arguing that by denying children these documents, the state was hindering the children’s rights to medical care, education, child care, and social welfare programs, among others. They requested that a judge issue an order for the state to begin issuing documents to all U.S.-born children.
U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman declined, writing that “although the Plaintiffs have provided evidence which raises grave concerns regarding the treatment of citizen children born to immigrant parents, this case requires additional determinations which can be made only upon development and presentation of an evidentiary record which thoroughly explores the facts and circumstances of the issues raised in this case.” Ultimately, Judge Pitman concluded that “A birth certificate is a vital and important document. As such, Texas has a clear interest in protecting access to that document.”
The 14th Amendment guarantees citizenship rights to children born in the U.S. Texas has been denying U.S. birth certificates to U.S.-born children of undocumented parents since 2013.
Jim George, who filed a brief in the case for Texas Appleseed on behalf of the families, disagreed. “The fundamental question left unanswered is how do they get birth certificates? The children cannot act for themselves. If they were orphans and had no families, the state would have the obligation to act as parents and ensure that they have all the rights of citizenship,” he told a reporter for the Austin-American Statesmen.
The case will proceed to a full hearing.