Federal judge will hear Texas birth certificate case next month
A coalition of undocumented immigrants whose U.S. citizen children have been denied birth certificates in Texas will get its day in federal court next month.
Attorneys for the families will appear before U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman on Oct. 2, according to an order filed Wednesday. The judge will consider whether to grant an emergency injunction and order the Department of State Health Services to identify two forms of identification the parents can use to obtain the vital record.
The families allege that the state health department violated the children’s constitutional rights by ordering local county registrars to stop recognizing Mexican consular IDs and foreign passports without valid visas as proof of identification. Their pleading specifically asks the state health department to list documents that are "reasonably and actually accessible to undocumented immigrant parents now present in Texas."
The lawsuit was filed in May on behalf of six U.S. citizen children and their parents from Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala. The complaint has been amended since to include more than 30 families.
The health services department has said that it never recognized the Mexican consular ID, also called the matrícula consular, as a secure document. The department does accept other forms of identification, such as foreign election ID cards or driver’s licenses. But the attorneys representing the undocumented parents argue their clients don’t have those documents and cannot obtain them while living in Texas. They also say that, until recently, the matrícula was accepted at the majority of county offices.
The office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, representing the health department, declined to comment about the judge’s order but said it would file a response brief in the coming days.
Pitman’s order on Wednesday comes despite a request from Paxton’s office in July that the lawsuit be dismissed based on a sovereign immunity claim under the 11th Amendment. Paxton’s office argued the state cannot be sued in federal court because it has not waived that right, according to court documents.
On Wednesday, Pitman also granted the Mexican government’s request to file a brief in support of the immigrant parents. The brief, submitted to the court on Aug. 24, argues that the denial of birth certificates could adversely affect the children’s well being and could sully the Texas-Mexico relationship. The brief contained an affidavit by Consul Carlos González Gutiérrez from the Mexican Consulate General’s office in Austin that attested to the validity of the matrícula.