A number of undocumented immigrants and their children have filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Texas for what they say is a policy designed to deny their U.S.-born children birth certificates.
“Defendants have acted with the intent to discriminate against the Texas-born children on the basis of their parents’ immigrations status, depriving the children of their rights, benefits and privileges granted to all other citizen children,” the complaint says. “Defendants have also acted with the intent of discriminating against undocumented parents on the basis of their immigration status, penalizing them and making their personal/family lives near untenable.”
Lawyers from Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, the Texas Civil Rights Project, and the South Texas Civil Rights Project are representing the challengers in the lawsuit, which is being brought against Kirk Cole, the Texas Department of State Health Service’s Vital Statistics Unit commissioner, and Geraldine Harris, the unit chief. The suit started with four mothers, according to the Texas Observer, but has now expanded to well over a dozen parents who say they were denied birth certificates for their U.S. born children.
According to the complaint, undocumented immigrants had previously been able to use a “matricula consular” — a type of ID granted to immigrants by the consulates of their home countries — to meet the requirements to acquire a birth certificate for their U.S.-born children. However, in recent years, officials have stopped accepting matriculas, the complaint alleges, and around 2013 rejection of the matricula became widely enforced. Texas has also not offered an alternative route for the immigrants, according to the challengers, knowing that most undocumented immigrants don’t have to access to the other types of ID that can be used to acquire birth certificates. Foreign passports are only accepted in conjunction with a U.S. visas, for instance.
The complaint says that a vital statistic officer admitted the policy was changed to make it more difficult for U.S. citizen children of undocumented immigrants to receive birth certificates.
“By denying Plaintiff children their birth certificates, Defendants have a category of second-class citizens, disadvantaged from childhood on with respect to health and educational opportunities,” the complaint said. “All Plaintiffs suffered and will continue to suffer irreparable harm. Defendants knew and intended their actions would result in such harm.”
According to Jennifer Harbury, one of the immigrants’ lawyers, since she filed the suit in late May, many more immigrants have come to her saying they have faced the same problem, so more challengers have been added to the suit.
“The phones have been ringing off the hook,” she told the Texas Observer.
The complaint says Texas’ actions are at odds with the 14th Amendment, which guarantees children born on U.S. soil citizenship. The suit also accuses Texas of violating the Constitution’s equal protection clause, as the policy discriminates against the immigrants and their children on the basis of the mothers’ origins, as well as the supremacy clause, which says federal law on immigration and citizenship trumps state policy.
Read the full complaint below.