A federal judge has ruled that Texas may continue to deny birth certificates to children born in the U.S. to undocumented immigrants who are unable to present the specific documentation that is now required by the state.
While all children born on U.S. soil are automatically granted full citizenship rights, undocumented families allege that Texas has recently raised the bar for the types of documentation it accepts from immigrants who seek birth certificates for their U.S.-born children. A group of undocumented parents filed a lawsuit against the state in May, arguing that Texas officials should continue recognizing ID cards issued by the Mexican consulate as an acceptable form of documentation.
In his ruling Friday, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman was sympathetic toward the state in questioning the reliability of the consulate-issued IDs, known as "matricula consular" cards.
"While the Court is very troubled at the prospect of Texas-born children, and their parents, being denied issuance of a birth certificate ... a birth certificate is a vital and important document. As such, Texas has a clear interest in protecting access to that document," Pitman wrote.
Lawyers representing the more than two dozen undocumented families had asked for the court to intervene immediately to compel the state to issue birth certificates while the full case winds through the legal system.
In denying their request for a preliminary injunction, Pitman found that the parents did not meet the bar to warrant emergency relief. But Pitman also noted that the lack of a birth certificate presented "grave difficulties" for the parents of Texas-born kids in obtaining social benefits or even having them baptized.
Republican presidential candidates have made birthright citizenship a major campaign issue this election cycle, with some 2016 hopefuls calling to change the way Americans interpret the U.S. Constitution in order to deny citizenship rights to the children of undocumented immigrants.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, hailed the ruling as "an important first step in ensuring the integrity of birth certificates and personal identity information."
"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 mechanisms," he said in a statement.