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Texas seeks to dismiss immigrant birth certificate lawsuit

By Amy R. Connolly
Texas seeks to dismiss immigrant birth certificate lawsuit
A U.S. Border Patrol agent drives along the U.S.- Mexican border separating Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, Calif. The border fence runs from the Gulf of Mexico in Texas ending in the Pacific Ocean. Wednesday, Texas lawmakers asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit that claims U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants have been denied birth certificates. File Photo by Earl S.Cryer/UPI | License Photo

AUSTIN, Texas, July 23 (UPI) -- Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit that claims U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrant parents have been wrongfully denied birth certificates.

Paxton said the Texas Department of State Health Services, which is being sued by 19 families, has sovereign immunity under the 11th Amendment so the federal court lacks the jurisdiction over the state agency and the legal claims. State attorneys claim the immunity extends to DSHS Commissioner Kirk Cole and State Registrar Geraldine Harris, who are named as defendants in the case.

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In May, the Texas Civil Rights Project and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid sued the state after it refused to issue birth certificates to children who were born in America but whose parents are in the United States illegally. Parents attempted to use the Mexican matricula consular card as a form of ID, issued by the Mexican consulate regardless of immigration status. The state says two forms of identification must be used to obtain proof of birth, but the matricula consular is not allowable. For many, the card is their only form of ID.

Chris Van Deusen, state health department spokesman, said there's a longstanding policy of refusing to recognize the card as valid ID to obtain birth certificates. The parents' attorneys argue the policy was not enforced until last year, when a surge of pregnant women and unaccompanied children crossed the border illegally from Central America.

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"The question has been the enforcement," said Jim Harrington, an attorney for the Texas Civil Rights Project. "The local registrars or whoever was contracted by the department basically exercised their discretion, and it didn't seem to be a problem (previously)."

State Rep. Ramon Romero Jr., and three other Democratic lawmakers are also criticizing the rule, calling on Cole to make changes to the law.

"The specter of changing internal agency policy to overturn nearly 150 years of constitutional protection is ill-advised at best," Romero wrote in a letter to the agency.

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