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Court Order Sought to Free Birth Certificates

PHOTO: A civil rights lawsuit claims Texas is denying parents of U.S.-citizen children access to their birth certificates, making it hard for kids to access medical care and enroll in school. Photo credit: FlickreviewR/Wikimedia Commons.
PHOTO: A civil rights lawsuit claims Texas is denying parents of U.S.-citizen children access to their birth certificates, making it hard for kids to access medical care and enroll in school. Photo credit: FlickreviewR/Wikimedia Commons.
May 28, 2015

AUSTIN, Texas - A civil rights case has been filed against the Texas Department of State Health Services and key officials for denying parents without proof of legal immigration status birth certificates for their U.S.-citizen children.

The suit claims parents presented their child's hospital birth records and social security cards, and proof of their own identities, but were denied by local vital statistics offices.

Jennifer Harbury, an attorney with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, says everyone born in the United States is entitled to the full rights of citizenship.

"We're basically disrupting families in depriving U.S.-citizen children of their basic rights, and their mother's ability to take proper care of them with regard to medical care, school enrollment, emergency treatment," says Harbury.

A spokesperson for the Department of State Health Services claims Texas has long required a more secure form of identification than the Matricula Consular to verify a parent's identity.

Harbury counters the state is even refusing valid passports without U.S. visas and the Matricula meets state regulations because it's an official form of identification issued by a foreign consulate.

The civil rights suit claims the state discriminated against the parents and children based on the parents' immigration status. Harbury points out that the Constitution doesn't permit arbitrary or vindictive discrimination against any person, let alone children, and believes the state's actions go against American values.

"We have moral duty to accept these people. It's what our country is made of. What's also at stake is our core values as American citizens," she says. "This is what our country is about; we are a nation of immigrants."

The lawsuit also alleges the state overreached by interfering with the federal government's authority over immigration affairs. Incidents of parents being denied their children's birth certificates have been reported in El Paso, McAllen, Brownsville and Harlingen - all border cities.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - TX