Made in America: How Birth Certificate Applications Infringe on the Right to Citizenship


Serna v. Texas Department of State Health Services is a pioneering lawsuit which championed children born in the United States to undocumented parents. This lawsuit challenged a Texas policy that made it impossible for undocumented immigrant parents to obtain certified copies of birth certificates for their Texas-born children. This article argues that, by requiring forms of identification out of reach for most undocumented immigrants to apply for a certified copy of a birth certificate in Texas, the State deprived the U.S. citizen children of their rights. The case focuses on Texas, but the issue transcends state lines, and this article looks at the requirements for applying for a certified copy a birth certificate throughout the United States and the implications of these policies for U.S.-born children of undocumented parents. Using Serna as a backdrop, this article considers how unreasonably denying citizens access to their birth certificates interferes with the full rights of their citizenship. To do so, this article explores the arguments made by both parties in Serna to recommend strategies for advocates and sympathetic policy-makers to remove barriers preventing undocumented immigrants from obtaining their children’s birth certificates.

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The Harbinger is proud to present selected works of Patrick Irving. Irving writes First Amend This!, a monthly newsletter that offers a firsthand look into the Idaho prison system, drawing from his personal experiences in a maximum security institution.