- The Washington Times - Friday, October 16, 2015

Texas officials may continue to refuse to issue birth certificates to illegal immigrant parents who aren’t able to show valid identification, a federal court ruled Friday, dealing a major blow to Mexican advocates who had said the policy was in effect stripping them of citizenship.

U.S. District Judge Robert L. Pitman said the matricula consular cards issued by Mexican consulates to their citizens in the U.S. — chiefly to those in the country illegally — aren’t secure, so Texas is able to refuse to accept them as primary identification when a parent requests a birth certificate.

The court said that could change if the challengers are able to offer more evidence, but for now the judge ruled that Texas can continue to insist on secure documents and to refuse to accept the matricula consular cards as primary ID.

“Although the plaintiffs have provided evidence which raises grave concerns regarding the treatment of citizen children born to immigrant parents, this case requires additional determinations which can be made only upon development and presentation of an evidentiary record which thoroughly explores the facts and circumstances of the issues raised in this case,” Judge Pitman, sitting in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, wrote in a 27-page order.

The case stems from a Texas requirement restricting who can request a birth certificate. Parents or grandparents are approved requesters, but they must be able to prove their relationship to the child, which means establishing their identity.

That’s difficult for many illegal immigrants who have no valid American ID but who had hoped to use the matricula consular cards, which the Mexican government issues to help its citizens — and illegal immigrants in particular — gain access to services in the U.S.

The cards have been controversial for years, with security experts, including the FBI, questioning their validity. Texas refuses to accept the cards as primary identification for a birth certificate, arguing that they are relatively easy to counterfeit and that the Mexican government doesn’t maintain a centralized database or do thorough checks to verify the identity of those they issue the cards to.

Without birth certificates, one woman said she was unable to bring her son back into the U.S. after visiting Mexico. Others said they weren’t able to have their children baptized, and still others said they will have trouble registering their children for school or getting them signed up for Medicaid.

Judge Pitman said those harms were all real, but said Texas, which is trying to ensure that only legitimate applicants can pick up birth certificates, appears to have a valid reason for its policy.

The Mexican government had weighed in against Texas in the case, urging the judge to allow its cards to be accepted.

The Mexican Embassy in Washington says it has upgraded its cards, which now include an electronic chip and other security measures designed to prevent counterfeiting.

The new cards were available as of November, and more than 1 million were issued in the first two months. That accounts for about a quarter of the 4.4 million cards that have been issued in the U.S., the embassy said.

Six states accept the Mexican-issued cards as valid proof for obtaining a driver’s license, and hundreds of banks and more than 1,000 police departments accept them as valid identity for their purposed, the embassy said.

Judge Pitman said the plaintiffs hurt their case by presenting a changing story about the extent of the harm brought by Texas’ policy. But he also said he was troubled by reports that some local registrars’ offices appeared to be threatening illegal immigrants with being reported to federal authorities.

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