In a ruling which promises to deepen the national controversy over immigration policy, a federal judge in Texas ruled on Friday that the state may continue to refuse to issue birth certificates to the U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants. U.S. citizenship is automatically granted to anyone born in the country, whether or not their parents entered the country legally, but Texas has made it all but impossible for some parents to receive birth certificates for their children.
Judge Robert L. Pitman of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in San Antonio’s ruling denies the emergency injunction sought by the families of U.S-born children affected by the policy, which states that Texas officials do not have to accept matricula consular cards as valid identification for the purposes of obtaining a birth certificate. The cards are issued by Mexican consulates.
“While the Court is very troubled at the prospect of Texas-born children, and their parents, being denied issuance of a birth certificate,” Pitman wrote, “Texas has a clear interest in protecting access to that document.” Pittman’s ruling did acknowledge that the evidence offered by the plaintiffs raised serious concerns, but that it fell short of what would be needed by the court to grant the relief asked for.
The ruling comes as immigration policy is a topic of heated debate, particularly in the presidential race.
While birthright citizenship is granted by the Constitution, conservatives including Republican Candidate Donald Trump have challenged this right.
Others on the political right have praised the ruling, including Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who said in a statement, “Before issuing any official documents, it’s important for the state to have a way to accurately verify people are who they say they are through reliable identification mechanism.”
The suit was brought by more than 24 immigrant parents of U.S.-born children on their behalf after their children were denied birth certificates and other important services. Jennifer Harbury of Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, Inc, who represented the families, said that the families were concerned about the welfare of their children, but understood Pitman’s ruling.
Harbury added that the children of these families are finding it difficult to access important basic services like medical care and school due to Texas’ refusal to issue birth certificates, saying, “Texas must allow a clear path for all children born in this country to gain access to birth certificates and their full rights as citizens. It may not establish an obstacle course for these children alone.”