Deal reached on birth certificates for immigrant kids

SAN JUAN — After more than a year of litigation, civil rights advocates reached an agreement with the state of Texas to allow all U.S.-born children to receive birth certificates, including those born to undocumented mothers.

“This is a critical victory for immigrant families, but it is also a victory for the constitutional rights of all of us,” said Juanita Valdez-Cox, executive director of La Union Del Pueblo Entero, during a news conference yesterday afternoon.

“Questioning the citizenship of U.S.-born citizen children of immigrant parents erodes our constitutional freedoms and protections, causes instability for parents and children, and undermines the guarantee that all of our children will unquestionably be citizens,” she added.

At the conference, Maria Francisca Rodriguez, an Edinburg mother of three, recalled spending days going from one records department to another last year throughout the Rio Grande Valley after she was denied a copy of her son’s birth certificate.

“I didn’t understand what the problem was. I had used the same form of ID before, but this time they said it was not valid,” the 35-year-old mother originally from Mexico said in Spanish.

She tried to use her matricula, a picture identification card issued by the Mexican consulate, but in 2013 Texas changed the rules regarding what forms of ID a parent may present to obtain a birth certificate for their child born in the state. Two forms of ID that are most commonly held by undocumented immigrants, the matricula, along with all foreign passports without a visa were no longer valid.

“I felt they were discriminating against us and violating the rights of our children,” Rodriguez said. “I knew I needed to do something, so LUPE put me in contact with the attorneys and we joined the other families in the lawsuit.”

In 2015 the Texas Civil Rights Project and Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid filed a lawsuit against the Department of State Health Services on behalf of six U.S. citizen children and their parents, who are undocumented immigrants from Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala. The original complaint was amended twice to include more than 30 families.

After the lawsuit, officials at the DSHS said their main concern is to protect the identity of Texans and secure vital records. In August, department spokesman Chris Van Deusen said the Mexican consulate office does not verify the documents used to apply for a matricula and said they have never accepted it.

According to LUPE, an immigrant rights group with about 7,000 members, which also joined the lawsuit, there are more than 60 children in the Rio Grande Valley whose parents have come forward in the last year after being directly affected by the change in policy.

“It seems like this change in policy was motivated by anti-immigrant sentiment,” said LUPE spokesman John-Michael Torres. “The intent of the state was to punish undocumented parents.”

“After the president created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program we saw this effort in the part of the state to get really strict in terms of who could access their child’s birth certificate and really eliminating ways that most undocumented mothers and fathers used to access their child’s birth certificate,” he added.

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