More than two dozen parents have sued the state health department. They are undocumented immigrants who have had children in this country, but they say the state is making it too difficult for them to obtain birth certificates. Friday they asked a federal judge to take immediate action.
The Texas Civil Rights Project took the concerns of 25 families before a federal judge in Downtown Austin Friday morning. Cameras were not allowed inside the courtroom.
The plaintiffs are undocumented immigrants who have had children in the U.S.- They claim the state has made it impossible for them to obtain birth certificates, therefore depriving them of their fundamental rights. They are suing the Texas Department of State Health Services.
"This is about citizenship. You're born in this country. You should be treated like somebody who's been born in this country," Jim Harrington, Texas Civil Rights Project, said.
Attorney Jim Harrington says documents such as a matricula, a Mexican-consulate issued ID card, will not suffice as proper identification.
The state, represented by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's office, says matriculas aren't acceptable because not even Mexico recognizes them, nor does the FBI or the U.S. Department of Justice.
Attorneys for the state claim the same documents necessary to obtain a matricula will work when applying for a birth certificate, but families essentially did not try hard enough. They called the process accommodating- in that relatives, and representatives other than the parents, can apply.
"I thought a lot of what the state said was insulting to people. You know, it's not easy at all. And these are people with great sacrifice to be in this country who do menial jobs that we have in this country and are here for the same reasons our ancestors came here to have a better life for their kids," Harrington said.
Judge Robert Pittman questioned if the state created barriers for a perceived harm and not a real harm: Are people really trying to obtain false certificates they are not entitled to?
Paxton issued the following statement:
"We stand in defense of the state of Texas, including the policies put in place to protect Texans' most sensitive information and documents. In this case, a birth certificate is the key to a person's very identity, and these vital documents must be protected by requiring basic, common-sense forms of identification in order to obtain copies. With identity theft a growing national concern, now is not the time to relax our requirements and accept forms of identification that may not sufficiently prove that a requestor is who they say they are."
Families are asking the judge to approve an injunction-- requiring the state to come up with two documents parents can provide to obtain certificates immediately. Pittman says he will take all opinions into advisement. There is no timeline for his decision. The case could go to trial.