Perales Serna, et al., v. Texas Department of State Health Services, Vital Statistics Unit, et al.
October 16 update: Perales Serna Order denying preliminary injunction 16 October 2015 What this means is that the Court wants to hear ALL the evidence at a full trial, rather than making a preliminary ruling while there are still some factual disputes. It’s not a bad thing in the long run, because a ruling for the Plaintiffs based on a full trial would be much stronger, and less susceptible to reversal by the Fifth Circuit.
At some point in the last two years, but certainly by November 2014, Texas Vital Statistics Offices began to refuse to give birth certificates to parents of U.S. born, and therefore U.S. citizen, babies, if those parents could not prove their legal status in the U.S. Vital Statistics offices have refused to give birth certificates even when parents come in with the hospital records of birth, and passports and/or consular identification (matriculas) from their home countries. There’s the law, and there’s practice. And as with so many things about immigration and immigrants and refugees, practices differ across time and space, even within a given county or a given office, even within a year. So SOME Vital Statistics registrars were providing parents with birth certificates, and others weren’t, but the state began to audit local offices and pressure them to comply with a regulation prohibiting those offices from giving birth certificates to parents who do not possess certain kinds of identification. The regulation in question keeps most undocumented parents from being able to obtain birth certificates for their Texas-born children.
Texas claims that the state must ensure that people are who they say they are — that identification is reliable — but this rationale is a thing fig leaf for the actual intention of making life difficult for undocumented people and their families. Some officials have made statements suggesting that they were especially motivated by President Obama’s announcement of a program, “Deferred Action for Parental Accountability,” or “DAPA,” on November 20, 2014. Preventing immigrants and refugees from being able to prove that they are parents of U.S. citizen children would block those parents’ ability to receive the benefits of DAPA. (Texas and other states have also challenged the legality of DAPA, so it is not yet in effect, anyway.)
Meanwhile, the lack of birth certificates hurts children, with potentially long-term, devastating effects.
Jennifer Harbury, of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, and Efrén Olivares and Jim Harrington of the Texas Civil Rights Project, filed a federal lawsuit earlier this year to challenge Texas. Ms. Harbury represents the U.S. citizen babies whose parents have not been able to receive their children’s birth certificates; Mr. Harrington and Mr. Olivares represent the parents.
The plaintiffs — the US citizen babies and their parents — have asked the judge to grant a temporary injunction, asking Texas to start giving birth certificates. temporary injunction hearing on Friday, October 2, in the U.S.
Anyone can read and download most documents in any federal court case through the Public Access to Court Electronic Records system, or PACER. (Under some circumstances, some documents are not public.) But it does cost a little bit, 10 cents a page or up to $3.00 per document,and that can add up if you are trying to follow what is happening in a case. For that reason, I am posting selected pleadings here for anyone who is interested.
The plaintiffs are U.S. citizen children of undocumented parents, represented by Jennifer Harbury and Marinda Van Dalen of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, & their parents, represented by Efrén Olivares and Jim Harrington of the Texas Civil Rights Project. You can read what they are saying in the following documents:
The Defendants are the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS), Vital Statistics Unit and some officials. The Defendants’ first response was to say that the state is protected by sovereign immunity. The following documents contain their substantive arguments about why they disagree with the undocumented parents of U.S. citizen babies.
“A certified copy of a birth record can be used to obtain numerous identification documents, such as a passport or driver’s license, as well as to commit identity theft.” Defendants’ Response to Plaintiffs’ Emergency Application for a Preliminary Injunction, pp. 3.
Defendants’ Response to Plaintiffs’ Emergency Application for a Preliminary Injunction, pp. 1 – 14 of 37
Defendants’ Response to Plaintiffs’ Emergency Application for Preliminary Injunction, pp 14 – 35
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) submitted a letter brief as amicus curiae, or friend of the court.
Mexico also submitted a brief as amicus curiae, or friend of the court. El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras have joined Mexico in its brief.
And the briefs of additional friends of the court — all supporting Plaintiffs — keep on coming:
* The gorgeous blue and white image comes from the ACLU website, accompanying several articles about the Fourteenth Amendment’s promise of citizenship for anyone born in the U.S. I don’t know who the artist is. If anyone DOES know, please tell me. Thank you!