Securing birth certificates for children of immigrants now easier in TX

A recent settlement should help immigrants in Texas obtain birth certificates and establish citizenship for their children who were born in the state.

In 2015, a group of immigrants filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas, alleging that it was denying citizenship to children who had been born to immigrants within the U.S. According to Fox News, changes in the state's documentation standards effectively prevented many immigrants from securing birth certificates, which act as proof of citizenship, for their children. Fortunately, under a recent settlement, more immigrants should now be able to secure this critical documentation.

Changing legal requirements

Prior to 2013, immigrants in Texas could obtain birth certificates for their children if they were able to present foreign passports or identification cards issued by Mexican consulates. That year, however, the state changed its policy and stopped accepting photo identification cards from consulates, as The New York Times explains. Additionally, the state began exclusively accepting passports that included a valid U.S. visa.

The parents who filed the lawsuit alleged that they were not able to obtain these documents. This made it virtually impossible for them to secure birth certificates, and without this documentation, the citizenship of their children could be disputed.

Under the recent settlement, Texas will still not allow immigrants to use either type of identification that was accepted before 2013. However, immigrants who can present valid consulate-issued voter identification cards will be able to obtain birth certificates for their children. This change could offer significant benefits for these children as well as their family members.

Potential benefits

Without valid birth certificates, the children of immigrants who lack legal status may face various harmful outcomes. According to The New York Times, during the recent lawsuit, immigrants pointed to the following problems and obstacles:

  • The parents would not have any documentation to legally establish their relationship with their children.
  • These children would not be able to attend public school or take part in public health programs without birth certificates.
  • If these children faced removal and deportation, they might not be able to return to their sole country of citizenship.

In addition to addressing these issues, the recent legal changes may offer long-term benefits for families with children born here in Texas. According to the United States Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services, citizens who were born in the U.S. may petition for green cards for their biological parents, adopted parents or stepparents after age 21. Under prior state policies, seeking these family-based green cards might not have been an eventual option for many children born in Texas.

As this case shows, at some point many immigrants may need assistance to fully understand and protect their legal rights, along with those of their family members. As a result, seeking advice from an attorney is often a critical starting point for individuals who are navigating matters involving immigration law.