In the U.S. and some 30 other countries, the law guarantees citizenship at birth. But for kids born in Texas, a birth certificate was far from a sure thing. In fact, a group of undocumented parents sued the state of Texas over policies denying birth certificates to their kids born here.
The state’s position: if they don’t have U.S.-issued ID, parents must show acceptable forms of foreign ID like a driver license – a card signed by the Mexican consulate wasn’t enough. A major legal confrontation looked likely – until late last week when, without fanfare, those parents reached a settlement with the state government.
Laura Hernández, a professor at Baylor Law School in Waco, says the settlement made by Attorney General Ken Paxton was confidential, so it’s hard to know exactly why it didn’t go to trial.
“It’s probably very likely that the Texas attorney general felt that they would not succeed after a full trial of the merits,” she says, “so that likely inspired them to settle it, before the case went any further.”
Hernández says the state will issue regulations for county clerks to follow, so average folks will know what they need to get a birth certificate for their child. “Clerks do not operate in a vacuum,” she says. “They are given statutes and regulations to follow… so that they will know that these forms of identification are now acceptable again.”
Before 2011, the Mexican government was “not very diligent” when issuing matrícula consular cards, Hernández says. “In particular, they didn’t monitor what happened and who they’d issued the matrícula to. For that reason, the state of Texas concluded it was particularly susceptible to fraud.”
Texas removed the matricula as an acceptable form of ID. But recently, the Mexican government has changed the way it administered those cards. “And now, (the process) is very conscientious and does monitor who it’s issued to,” she says. “…So the state of Texas’ objection is not as relevant.”
Now that the rules have changed, Texas should ensure that county clerks are, in fact, issuing birth certificates. “However, practically speaking,” Hernández says, “the plaintiffs and the plaintiffs’ lawyers will have to be monitoring whether or not state clerks around Texas are complying with the new regulations.”
If clerks aren’t complying, Hernández says, the plaintiffs can use this settlement as “a hammer to force compliance.”
Post by Hannah McBride.