Birthright citizenship is a hotly contested topic. The U.S. and Canada are one of the few nations that automatically grant citizenship so expansively to children born within in their borders. Anyone born in the United States is considered an American citizen regardless of whether the parents are U.S. citizens, legal residents, temporary visitors, or illegal aliens in the U.S.
For quite some time, Congress has debated whether the idea of bestowing United States citizenship to all children born here is an outdated concept that should be done away with. Critics of birthright citizenship argue that the granting of citizenship to all children born in the U.S. incentivizes illegal immigration, anchor babies, and birth tourism. As Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte remarked during a congressional hearing on the issue, “[t]he questions of whether our forefathers meant for birthright citizenship in all circumstances to be the law of the land is far from settled…In any event, we must still determine if it is the right policy for American today.
But while the rest of country continues the debate, the State of Texas, a longtime proponent of state’s rights, has made a unilateral decision to deny the children of undocumented parents their U.S. citizenship. Specifically, it appears that when non-citizen women have requested birth certificates for their children at the state’s vital statistics offices, the vital statistics employees have refused to issue birth certificates unless the women were able to present their foreign passports with a current U.S. visa. The fact that (i) Texas law allows the use of a foreign identification in such instances if the mother lacks a Texas driver’s license or a U.S. passport, or (ii) the denial U.S. citizenship to someone born in the U.S. presents a potential constitutional violation seemed to be of no consequence. Not to mention that there instances where an individual could legitimately be in the U.S. without the need for a visa stamp.
Not surprisingly, on June 11, 2015, four women filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Texas Department of State Health Services for constitutional discrimination and interference in the federal government’s authority over immigration. Putting the legal implications to the side, the denial of birth certificates to the children of undocumented parents presents real problems for the affected families. Without birth certificates, families are unable to (i) enroll their children in school or daycare, (ii) authorize treatment in cases of a medical emergency, or (iii) prove they are the child’s family. So while the rest of the country continues to debate the relevancy and constitutional implications of birthright citizenship, it appears that Texas has decided the debate for its residents. As the cliché says, Texas does things their way.