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In Dallas County, Getting A Birth Certificate Just Got Harder For Children Of Immigrants

Eric Lewis
The Texas Department of State Health Services and counties around the state, including Dallas County, don't accept the matricula consular as a form of identification.

Some immigrants have what’s known as the matricula consular, a form of identification issued in their native country. The state, however, doesn’t accept the card. Neither does Dallas County, and that has immigrant advocates worried about how the policy will affect children who need a birth certificate to enroll in school.

Earlier this year, the Texas Civil Rights Project and Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid sued the Department of State Health Services. The suit accused the agency of violating the civil rights of a group of U.S.-born children and their undocumented parents.

That’s because the parents wanted to get the birth certificates of their children, but were denied.

“We are really concerned because there are a lot of Mexican nationals in Texas that doesn’t have the proper ids like the passport with a stamped visa or a voter registration card or a proper driver’s from Mexico that is still valid,” said Sergio Hayakawa, who is the consul for protection and legal affairs at the Mexican Consulate in Dallas.

Hayakawa says the consulate has told Texas government officials about its concerns.

Chris Van Deusen, a spokesperson with the Department of State Health Services issued a written statement. He said DSHS doesn’t consider the matricula a secure form of id because the documents shown to get the card aren’t verified by the Mexican government. DSHS has never accepted the matricula and neither do other states or federal agencies.

“And that causes a problem,” said Dallas school board member Miguel Solis. “Because if you cannot get a birth certificate, then you cannot let’s say enroll your child in a Dallas ISD school because that is one of the requirements that we have is a birth certificate for children.”

Solis is also president of the newly created Latino Center for Leadership Development.

“This is an issue that, I think, we as a district are going to have to take seriously immediately and to begin to strategize around as well, because we’ve not had to deal with this issue before,” Solis said.

Solis has reached out to Dallas County officials with his concerns. On the county’s website is a message that it hasn’t accepted the matricula since June 1.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins acknowledges the problem, and says the county’s following the state’s policy.

“You have the state who has some interest in ensuring the veracity of the information on the id,” Jenkins said. “But you’ve also got the rights of our citizens and, in this case, these citizens are by and large defenseless small children, and we’ve gotta make sure to protect the rights of them as well.”

Jenkins said he’s talking to different groups and trying to work out a solution, but says it’s too early to know what that will be.

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.