Discerning fact from fiction in the Texas immigrant birth certificate situation

The Internet went abuzz Friday after a federal judge in Texas decided not to issue an emergency order requiring the state to accept a particular form of ID from illegal immigrants so they can get birth certificates for their U.S.-born kids. The Associated Press’ headline screamed “Judge: No Birth Certificates To Immigrant Kids Born in Texas,” while NPR wrote “Judge Says Texas Can Continue Denying Birth Certificates To Immigrants’ Kids,” and Los Angeles Times proclaimed “Judge: Texas can deny birth certificates for U.S.-born children of immigrants.” The problem is these headlines are only half-true. Judge Robert Pitman’s decision is only temporary. From Pitman’s ruling:

In summary, although the Plaintiffs have provided evidence which raises grave concerns regarding the treatment of citizen children born to immigrant parents, this case requires additional determinations which can be made only upon development and presentation of an evidentiary record which thoroughly explores the facts and circumstances of the issues raised in this case.

So the case is far from over and everyone suggesting otherwise is just wrong. A trial is going to happen, and those findings will probably be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court. In fact, none of the plaintiffs are really complaining about the ruling. Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid even told The Texas Tribune Pitman did a good job.

“We appreciate the thoroughness of Judge Pitman’s considerations in denying the preliminary injunction and the serious issues involved. We also understand his decision to await a full trial upon all of the evidence before issuing an injunction on such a crucial matter. We worry, however, about the safety of many Texas children in the interim. Without their birth certificates they are having difficulty gaining access to basic services, including school and medical care.”

The Texas Civil Rights Project opined to The Dallas Morning News they weren’t surprised at all by Pitman’s ruling.

“There are areas where he wants more proof about what happened to the plaintiffs…Basically, he laid out a road map of what he wants to see at trial before he makes his final decision.”

So if those filing suit aren’t complaining, why the half-truth in the headlines? Is it because of click bait and trying to catch the eyes of the reader? Or are the news outlets trying to gin up controversy where none really exists? It could be a little bit of both because catchy headlines are important. But the facts matter and it’s sad to see these news outlets not adhere to them. It’s blatant overstatement and the facts are probably going to change as court proceedings move on. The headlines also ignore the fact Pitman appears sympathetic towards the plaintiffs, but just doesn’t think they’ve completely proven their case (emphasis mine).

Based on the evidence presented by Plaintiffs, the Court concludes Plaintiffs have established, at a minimum, that deprivation of a birth certificate to the Plaintiff children results in deprivations of the rights and benefits which inure to them as citizens, as well as deprivations of their right to free exercise of religion by way of baptism, and their right to travel…The Court thus finds Plaintiffs have sufficiently shown a substantial threat of irreparable injury to the Plaintiff children and parents to meet the first element necessary to obtain a preliminary injunction…Unfortunately, Plaintiffs have failed to present any evidence which would support such a conclusion. While a review of the secondary identification documents listed in Section 181 might cause the reviewer to question the relative reliability and ease of obtaining the documents as contrasted with the matricula and foreign passport without a visa, Plaintiffs have presented no evidence which would substantiate those questions.

So it appears Pitman is saying, “close but no cigar” and a final ruling will be made at a later date. This makes sense and, again, the comments from TRGLA and Texas Civil Rights Project show they understand where the judge is coming from. So if everyone involved in the suit is fine with the judge’s decision, why did the media have to not 100% be honest?

The big problem with the lawsuit is that birth records are still available online. Parents need to make sure to give their full names, their child’s full name, the city and county where the child was born, and when. It costs a little bit more than it would to go to the local county clerk’s office to get the document because of shipping, but it’s still possible to get a birth certificate. It might be better for TRGLA and Texas Civil Rights Project to educate those wanting birth certificates for their children where they can go, and how they can get the information without having to rely on the government. This isn’t meant to pass judgment on either the state or those suing on who’s right or who’s wrong, it’s just pointing out what’s available. The facts are this: a final decision hasn’t been made, another day is court is coming up, and people can still get birth records online. For the media to scream, “OMG! U.S. CHILDREN OF IMMIGRANTS CAN’T GET THEIR BIRTH RECORDS!!!111!!!eleventy!!!” is just simplifying things way too much.