Texas Is Already Implementing Donald Trump's Vision Of America

Photo: John Moore/Getty Images.
Officials in Texas didn't wait for Donald Trump to win the presidential election before implementing a policy beloved by anti-immigrant conservatives. Trump made a huge splash by saying he didn't believe birthright citizenship — the constitutionally enshrined idea that a baby born within the United States is an American — earlier this summer. And now it's happening: Some children born in the U.S. haven't been issued birth certificates because their parents can't provide the documents that the state of Texas requires — and a federal judge said this is okay.

In a ruling Friday, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman said that Texas should be allowed to have strict standards for what types of documents immigrant parents must submit to get birth certificates for their children. But those standards changed recently, and a common form of identification is no longer considered acceptable.

Judge Pitman said in his ruling, “While the Court is very troubled at the prospect of Texas-born children, and their parents, being denied issuance of a birth certificate…a birth certificate is a vital and important document." So vital and important that the family of a child obviously born in the U.S. have to go to court for the right to be recognized as a citizen.

This isn't just a bureaucratic problem; it's a major constitutional issue. The Constitution's 14th Amendment guarantees citizenship to all children born in the United States. "It's a basic denial of human rights," Thanu Yakupitiyage of the New York Immigration Coalition told Refinery29. "To deny American children their birth certificate is discrimination."

And though Yakupitiyage says that the Texas decision could lead other states to try similar tactics, fighting over documents only saps energy and focus away from crafting significant immigration reforms that will allow families to stay together.

"This is distracting from the real issue," Yakupitiyage said. "We need to find a path to citizenship. These people are not going away, and the solution is not to deny their children birth certificates." She added later, "Immigrant families have built their homes in the U.S, and they work hard in their communities."

Leaving a child functionally stateless means she won't be able to travel, to access any sort of public benefit like schooling or medical care, or get a job. But there are cities that are taking a different approach. New York City issues ID cards for all residents, regardless of their immigration status, and California recently started allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for driver's licenses.

"There are a lot of people in mixed-status families," said Yakupitiyage. "Instead of focusing on keeping these families together, they’re trying to tear these families apart. Not issuing birth certificates creates a different class of people."

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