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Undocumented Parents Fighting for Birth Certificates for U.S. Born Kids

The Short of It

A group of Texas parents has teamed up to challenge the state's reluctance to issue birth certificates to the children of undocumented parents. The 19 defendants in the lawsuit are claiming the state's actions are in violation of the U.S Constitution's 14th Amendment.

The Lowdown

Texas state officials say they provide birth certificates without regard to the requestor's immigration status, but they're hesitant to accept matriculas, which are local consulate-issued identification cards, because the underlying documents used to obtain the ID cards are difficult to verify. Parents can't get their children's birth documents without the IDs.

The parents, who are immigrants from Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico, say the state has used ID requirements as a way to combat the Obama administration's push in 2012 to protect immigrants facing deportation.

According to the Texas lawsuit, "As a result of this situation, hundreds, and possibly thousands, of parents from Mexico and Central America have recently been denied birth certificates for their Texas-born children."

This is in direct violation of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which says children born in the United States have the right to U.S. citizenship, regardless of the origins of their parents. The lawsuit, filed in May, alleges the refusals are a political tactic and demands that a judge force the state to comply with federal law.

"As immigration became more controversial, they just started clamping down," lead attorney Jennifer Harbury of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid told The Los Angeles Times.

"Until a few years ago, we would accept the matricula consular, but the state came down on us," said Annette Villarreal, City Secretary of McAllen, Texas. She said the state re-emphasized that her office shouldn't use the matriculas because they're not verifiable.

Without birth certificates, undocumented parents in Texas are finding it difficult to enroll their children in programs like Head Start or preschool. Later in life, the children won't be able to apply for driver's licenses, marriage certificates or even jobs without access to their birth certificates.

The Upshot

This isn't a new issue. A similar situation has come up in Arizona. But Jorge-Mario Cabrera, a spokesman for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, says in California, immigrants routinely use the matricula card to obtain birth certificates.

If state officials stopped accepting it, Cabrera told The Los Angeles Times that, "it would be disastrous. The banks, organizations, even the [Department of Motor Vehicles] use those matriculas now. It's become an integral part of doing business with immigrants, both documented and undocumented."

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