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Civil Rights Groups Target Dallas Birth Certificate Policy

This item first appeared on the District Dossier blog

Two Texas civil rights groups are suing the state, arguing that a recent policy change could complicate the school enrollment process for U.S.-born children with undocumented immigrant parents.

This summer, Dallas County stopped issuing birth certificates for children born to non-citizen parents who use foreign identification cards from consulates.

Texas Civil Rights Project and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid say the change could infringe on the civil rights of thousands of school-aged citizens by making it more difficult for them to attend school. On behalf of 17 families, the groups are suing the state's health department on the grounds that withholding birth certificates violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution, the Texas Tribune reported.

Dallas County cited requests by the state and U.S. Department of Homeland Security in making the policy change.

The 160,000-student Dallas school district asks for birth certificates to verify a students' age and the name of their parents. A district spokesman told the Dallas Morning News that staff will not turn children away who don't have them.

Once enrolled, parents in the Dallas school district will have 30 days to get birth certificates for their children. Staff also accepts alternative documents, including baptism certificates and hospital birth records, the Morning News reported.

Last year, civil rights officials with the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice issued guidance to districts warning against using practices that would discourage students who are undocumented, or whose parents do not have legal immigration status, from enrolling. It outlines the types of documentation that districts may ask for to prove age, including a birth certificate, but it makes clear that schools cannot deny access if students do not provide one.

Dallas is the county's largest district, but the county is also home to 15 other school systems.

Half of Dallas' children have at least one immigrant parent. Most of those children, nearly 90 percent, are U.S. citizens, according to data the Morning News cites from Kids Count.

But the Morning News points out that:

" ... data on how many of those immigrant parents are in the U.S. unlawfully isn't available ... and those are the parents who will have the most arduous task for meeting document requirements to get birth certificates for their U.S.-born children."

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