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The Two-Way

Texas Fights Suit After Denying Birth Certificates To Children Of Illegal Immigrants


Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, seen hear at his January swearing-in ceremony, has asked a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit.
Eric Gay, AP
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, seen hear at his January swearing-in ceremony, has asked a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit.

An interesting immigration case is winding its way through a federal court in Austin, Texas: A group of mothers has filed suit against the chief of the state's Department of State Health Services Vital Statistics Unit, because it has refused to give their U.S.-born children birth certificates.

The issue here is not whether or not these children are U.S. citizens. They are and that's made plain by the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which says anyone born in the U.S. is automatically a citizen.

The issue in this case is what kinds of identification Texas can demand of their undocumented immigrant parents to issue a birth certificate.

According to the complaint, Texas is refusing most forms of ID that undocumented immigrants would have access to. In one case, for example, the Vital Statistics office refused to a accept a matrícula or an ID card issued by a local Mexican consulate.

Under state law, Texas can also refuse to accept a foreign passport, unless it "bears a current U.S. visa."

The mothers claim that the state is discriminating against them because of their "immigration status and national origin."

On Wednesday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked a federal judge to dismiss the case, arguing that the federal judiciary did not have jurisdiction over this matter, because the state enjoys immunity and this involves state, not federal law.

Support comes from

In his motion, Paxton does not get into the particulars of state law, but the Texas Tribune reports that the agency explained their reasoning earlier:

"In a statement to the Texas Observer this month, a DSHS official said the agency accepts several forms of ID to verify identity but not the matrículas consulares because the documents used to obtain them are not verified by the 'issuing agency.'

"The issuing agency is the United Mexican States, attorney [Efrén] Olivares said.

"'I would be curious to see if a similar ID issued from Canada' received the same response, he said."

In his complaint, Olivares argued that Texas has accepted martrículas in the past. For example, one of the plaintiffs, Maria Isabel Perales Serna was able to get a birth certificate using that ID when her daughter was born 14 years ago.

But when she gave birth to another child, referred in documents as "K.Z.P.S.," last year, she was refused a birth certificate even though she presented a matrícula, a Mexican passport and hospital records.

"As a result of Defendant's wrongful denial of the birth certificate, Plaintiff Perales faces serious problems in enrolling her daughter in day care, traveling with her child, obtaining necessary medical care and other health, education and welfare services requiring parental consent and/or proof of K.Z.P.S.'s Texas birth," the complaint reads.

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