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Does TX birth certificate policy expose a constitutional gap?

How important is individual identity? In the United States, we hold the value of the individual so sacred that we have built our entire rule of law around the idea that the rights of the individual deserve priority over nearly everything else.

But what are the elements that contribute to each person's identity. Many would likely argue that one of the most fundamental is the family into which each of us is born. Up some from that may be the broader heritage we identify with. We take pride in our cultural roots. Many are proud to lay claim to being Texan. And for millions, the right to claim American citizenship is a major goal.

The claim of American citizenship is one that the Constitution grants to anyone who is born within the borders of the United States. But as many undocumented parents in Texas have discovered, what used to be relatively easy is no longer. And the frustrating situation has sparked a court fight.

The issue is this. County clerks in the state used to be able to issue birth certificates for children born to undocumented individuals on the basis of a matricula consular. That's an identity card issued by Mexican Consulates. But as of last year, the state of Texas has ruled that the matricula is no longer acceptable.

Officials say the cards were too easy to fake and that the policy stems from the state's obligation to make sure it can verify people's identities before it issues any official documents. But critics say it's really motivated by a desire to exercise control over immigration -- something that is the sole purview of the federal government.

How the issue will play out in the courts is to be determined. Meanwhile, the right of many children to claim their American identity is in limbo and their parents' desire to serve the best interest of their children is stalled.

Legal issues can take many forms. Successfully addressing family law issues requires paying close attention to the elements that make each case unique, and that is a skill that comes only with experience.

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