Virginia Justice Center and ACLU say refusal to grant birth certificates could lead to lawsuit

(Richmond) The Virginia Justice Center for Farm and Immigrant Workers and the ACLU of Virginia today asked the state Attorney General to advise the Office of Vital Records to rescind a recently instituted policy that requires parents to submit photocopies of certain identification documents in order to obtain their children’s birth certificates or other vital records. The two rights groups say that many immigrants will not be able to produce the documents. As a result their children, who will be U.S. citizens, could be denied access to Medicaid, food stamps and other benefits to which they are legally entitled.

Under the policy, parents must produce one document from list of 17 primary documents, or two documents from a list of 18 secondary documents. The primary documents list includes items such as a Virginia driver’s license, U.S. birth certificate, state-issued photo ID card, and certain immigration documents. The secondary list includes a U.S. Selective Service Card, U.S. Military discharge papers, and a life insurance policy. The Office of Vital Statistics will not accept passports without visas or birth certificates if they are from a country other than the U.S. Undocumented immigrants cannot possibly possess any of the primary documents, and are extremely unlikely to possess any of the secondary documents, making it virtually impossible for their children born in Virginia to obtain birth certificates.
In the letter faxed to Assistant Attorney General Howard M. Casway, Mary Bauer and Rebecca Glenberg, legal directors of the Virginia Justice Center for Farm and Immigrant Workers and the ACLU of Virginia respectively, write: “It is not clear why any identification document is required to obtain a copy of a birth certificate requested in the hospital. In that circumstance, there is no doubt but that the woman who has given birth to the child is the mother of that child…It appears that the intent of the current policy is to deny a birth certificate to the children of undocumented immigrants.”
“A child born in the United States is a U.S. citizen,” said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis, “regardless of the parents’ immigration status. Under this policy, some children who are undeniably citizens will not have the basic documentation they need to establish proof they were born here.”
Bauer and Glenberg’s letter seeks a guarantee from the Attorney General by November 8 that the current policy will be rescinded and that all children born in Virginia will be given a birth certificate. The ACLU and the Virginia Justice Center believe that the current policy violates the Equal Protection provisions of the U.S. Constitution and are prepared to file a lawsuit should that be necessary.

Contacts: Mary Bauer, Litigation Director Virginia Justice Center for Farm and Immigrant Workers, 434-245-0305

Kent Willis, Executive Director, ACLU of Virginia, 804-644-8022 Rebecca K. Glenberg, Legal Director, ACLU of Virginia, 804-644-8022