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Texas Matters: State Denies Birth Certificates To Babies Of Undocumented

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A Texas state agency is refusing to issue birth certificates for children of undocumented immigrants, a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Austin charges. The suit, filed on behalf of six mothers who were not born in the United States, alleges that the Texas Department of State Health Services has an undeclared policy preventing its employees from issuing the certificates despite the fact that children born on American soil to undocumented immigrants are legal U.S. citizens.

Jennifer Harbury, an attorney with Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, filed the suit.

The state of Texas does not require birth parents to disclose information about legal citizenship, only provide legal identification. However, the birth certificates are being refused because of the hospitals’ demand for proof of the mothers’ legal status. The hospitals where the children were born have maintained birth records which indicate the children were born in the United States. 

Harbury said she has heard about this practice up and down the Texas border and that there are far more than just six mothers being affected by the state’s practices.

Carrie Williams, Director of Media Relations for the Texas Department of State Health Services released the statement:

We want to be sure they are who they say they are, as a basic protection for people. We haven’t seen the lawsuit but Texas, like most other states, has long required a more secure form of identification than the Matricula Consular to verify a person’s identity before that person can obtain a birth certificates for a child. This is not a new requirement. It has been in place since at least 2008. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and other federal agencies do not recognize the Matricula Consular as proper identification or consider it to be a reliable form of identification. This is largely because the issuing consulate doesn’t verify or authenticate source documents. Instead of the Matricula Consular, there is a list of primary, secondary and supporting documents we can accept as proof of identity. When an applicant only has one secondary document, they can submit two supporting documents with that secondary document and obtain a copy of the birth record.  They can generally provide that.  If not, they can have someone else who is an immediate family member with proper ID request it.

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi