Illegal Immigrants Fight for Their Babies’ Birth Certificates

A federal judge has refused to stop Texas from withholding the birth certificates of children born in the U.S. to mothers who are illegal immigrants. But he has also called for a full court hearing to determine if the civil rights of these newest U.S. citizens are being violated by the policy.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton called U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman’s ruling that the Texas Department of State Health Services can continue denying birth certificates to “undocumented” immigrant families’ U.S.-born babies if their identification doesn’t meet Texas standards “an important first step in ensuring the integrity of birth certificates and personal identity information.”

“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,” Paxton said in a statement his office released following Judge Pitman’s ruling.

The Texas Department of State Health Services refuses to recognize some forms of identification offered by illegal-immigrant families including the identification cards known as “matriculas consulares” that are issued by Mexican consulates.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs in this case, La Union del Pueblo Entero — which represents illegal immigrants and other low-wage workers in the Rio Grande Valley — and an illegal immigrant, Maria Isabel Perales Serna, argued the identification policy violated the rights of the babies who are born to illegal immigrants in the United States.

They wanted Pitman to issue a temporary emergency injunction that would block the Texas birth certificate policy because the babies, since they were born in the United States, were lawful citizens no matter the status of their parents.

The plaintiffs' attorneys also argued there was a harm associated with that foul. By denying the children birth certificates, the attorneys contended Texas officials were effectively barring the newborns from later admission to public schools, and were preventing them from taking advantage of social welfare programs.

The attorneys argued the lack of a birth certificate could even mean these children born in the U.S. to illegal immigrants might not be able to be baptized.

The suit was originally filed in May on behalf of four Rio Grande Valley women, who are illegal immigrants, after they were denied copies of their U.S.-born children’s birth certificates.

It became immediately apartment that this was not just a legal tiff between advocates of illegal immigrants and the state of Texas. It also had international significance.

Mexico filed a friend of the court brief in the case. The lawsuit was also mentioned as a possible bone of contention in Labor Day weekend talks between Texas Gov. Jim Abbott and Mexican officials that were conducted last September.

Carlos Gonzalez Gutierrez, the Mexican consul general in Austin, Texas, told reporters the case was significant to his country because withholding birth certificates could have “detrimental consequences.”

Judge Pitman made it clear this was not an easy decision to make.