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Judge Says Texas Agencies Can Continue Denying Birth Certificates To Children Of Some Immigrants

The judge's order denied an injunction that would have forced Texas agencies to issue birth certificates to children of immigrant families that could not present the right kind of identification — because of their immigration status.

Posted on October 17, 2015, at 5:46 p.m. ET

Eric Gay / AP

Texas agencies can continue denying birth certificates to the U.S.-born children of immigrants who can't provide the right identification, a federal judge ruled Friday.

The ruling comes as Texas officials have made it increasingly difficult for the children of undocumented immigrants to obtain birth certificates by increasing the identification requirements for parents. In particular, the agencies have denied the matricula consular identification cards that are issued by Mexican consulates.

In the ruling Friday, Judge Robert Pitman denied an injunction that would have forced the Texas Department of State Health Services and the state's Vital Statistics Unit to issue the birth certificates while the lawsuit winds its way through court.

The parents of 32 children sued the agencies in May, arguing that by not issuing the birth certificates the state was denying the children their rights as U.S. citizens.

Pitman did not disagree with the argument, stating in his 27-page decision that, "the court is very troubled at the prospect of Texas-born children, and their parents, being denied issuance of their birth certificate."

Still, Pitman stated, the court needed to be presented with the evidence and arguments before making such an order.

The Constitution's 14th Amendment grants citizenship to all children born in U.S. soil, regardless of whether their parents entered the country illegally or not. Yet, the issue has been topic of discussion among some Republican conservatives who have called for a repeal of birthright citizenship, including presidential candidates Donald Trump, Bobby Jindal, and Ted Cruz.

State attorneys have not been arguing that the children are not U.S. citizens. Rather, they are arguing that the documentation being provided by their parents is not adequate or secure enough to issue the birth certificates for their children.

Jennifer Harbury, of the Texas RioGrande Legal Aid Inc., one of the lead attorneys representing the children, told the Los Angeles Times the families were not surprised by the ruling, but worried about getting basic services to their children as the case followed the legal process.

Today’s ruling is an important first step in ensuring the integrity of birth certificates and personal identity information.

"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," she told the paper.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, whose office represents the state agencies in court, said in a written statement that his office "will continue defending DSHS's policy on safeguarding Texans' most sensitive information and vital documents."

In court, however, state attorneys have argued that the birth certificate being sought by the parents of the 32 children is not a vital document, an argument that Pitman said in his ruling, "begs credulity."

"The lack of a birth certificate, or other documentation establishing citizenship, presents a clear bar to access those rights," he wrote.