Federal judge gives Texas thumbs-up to continue denying citizenship to children of undocumented immigrants

A federal judge ruled on Friday that Texas can continue to deny children of undocumented immigrants birth certificates as a lawsuit continues to work its way up the legal ladder.

Specifically, the state can continue to refuse to accept a certain form of ID, the matrícula, which is issued by Mexican consulates and is popular among undocumented immigrants, when deciding whether to issue a birth certificate to the child of an immigrant. Since states can now, apparently, decide whether to issue a birth certificate to the child of an immigrant. A group of parents have sued Texas for refusing to accept this form of ID, arguing that its refusal to issue birth certificates to their American-born children violates their 14th Amendment rights to citizenship and the Supremacy Clause. As birth certificates are necessary for all kinds of major life events, from enrolling in school to becoming baptized, the plaintiffs are arguing (rather convincingly) that their children are being relegated to second-class citizenship. And as the 14th Amendment is pretty clear that anyone born in the United States is a citizen, it should override any Texas Department of State Health Services policy that suggests otherwise.

This latest ruling isn’t an endorsement of Texas’s policy, per se, but it does side against the plaintiffs while the lawsuit runs its course. Even as the judge issued the order, he wrote that he was “troubled” by the fact that American-born children were being denied birth certificates, since “a birth certificate is a vital and important document.”

As NPR reported:

The judge said that without a doubt, Texas-born children of undocumented immigrants are being hurt by the Texas decision. Their constitutional right to travel and free exercise of religion by way of baptism are being curbed.

In his opinion, [US District Judge Robert] Pitman said he was “very troubled” by the prospect of Texas-born children being denied a birth certificate.

Still, he said, a birth certificate is an important document and Texas has an interest in “protecting access to that document.” The state has a right, he said, to make sure that that the types of IDs they accept are valid and reliable and other governmental agencies, like the FBI, have expressed concern about the reliability of the the matrícula.

In a brief filed in the case, Mexico argued that, despite what the FBI thinks, the matrícula is more reliable than other forms of ID that Texas accepts for birth certificates. It further reminded the court that “friendly nations” have a history of accepting passports and other government-issued IDs from foreign nations in order to identify foreign citizens.

Nevertheless, Pittman concluded that Texas can continue being bad at democracy rejecting the matrícula while the facts of the case are borne out.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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