What impact does your birth certificate have on your daily life? For undocumented immigrants in Texas, birth certificates are becoming a nightmare – as they struggle to secure a document that would allow their newborns to take advantage of vital services. The issue is not a new one, but as The New York Times reports, the timing to enforce stricter regulations on the types of identification needed in order to access birth certificates is interesting:
The refusal to accept the consular IDs coincided with the tough-on-immigration stance of Texas Republican leaders, the influx of Central American immigrants at the border last summer and the state’s opposition to President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, which would give temporary reprieves from deportation to as many as four million immigrants and also permit them to work.
A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of dozens of families, who are suing the Texas Department of State Health Services over the documents. The Department is refusing to accept consular IDs, a document it has accepted in the past, as a valid ID that would allow them to release birth certificates to the parents. Instead, the Department is asking undocumented parents to provide state issued driver’s licenses, a privilege not afforded to undocumented Texans, or passports with valid visas. Ironically enough, the same type of ID that the the Texas DSHS is refusing to accept is accepted by banks across the state, and is used by immigrants to even buy homes and conduct other transactions. So why the big commotion? The New York Times explains:
“[Texas state lawyers] say state policies do not discriminate against immigrants but are meant to ensure that birth records do not fall into the wrong hands. “Vital records contain private information that is confidential by law,” said Chris Van Deusen, a spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services, which oversees the state’s Vital Statistics Unit. “State and local registrars have a duty to protect that information by ensuring they only release records to people who are qualified to obtain them.”
Al Jazeera reported on the case of a particular family, where the two oldest children were able to obtain birth certificates at the time of their birth, granted to their mother via a matricula, while their youngest daughter is now unable to obtain the record:
Without a birth certificate, undocumented parents in Texas will continue to face a multitude of challenges – their newborns will not be able to be enrolled in preschool, and they will not be able to enroll in Medicaid. This is just the latest saga to demonstrate the harsh conditions that immigrants, latinos, and other minorities have to endure as residents of Texas. Earlier this year, the Texas state legislature attempted to repeal the Texas Dream Act – a bill signed by Republican Governor Rick Perry, which allows undocumented students to obtain in-state tuition at public universities. And let’s not forget that it is Texas, where a mother seeking medical attention is reported to the authorities because of her immigration states, and where a teenager is handcuffed because he chose to show off an engineering project. As this story continues to evolve, a petition effort asking that these U.S. born children be granted their birth certificates immediately has been launched. My only question is: how much more dignity is Texas willing to strip away from its own residents?