Virginia Justice Center and ACLU had threatened lawsuit if policy were not change.
(Richmond) The Virginia Justice Center for Farm and Immigrant Workers and the ACLU of Virginia have learned that the Virginia Office of Vital Records has revised a policy that made it difficult for many immigrants -- and virtually impossible for undocumented immigrants -- to obtain birth certificates for their children born in the United States. The two rights groups were concerned that these children, who are U.S. citizens, could have been denied access to Medicaid, food stamps and other benefits to which they are legally entitled simply because their parents would not to prove that they were born here.
In a letter sent on November 1 to Assistant Attorney General Howard M. Casway, the ACLU and the Justice Center threatened to file a lawsuit unless the policy were changed to make birth certificates more accessible. In his response, dated November 7, Casway states that the policy has been changed and encloses a November 4 memo from Office of Vital Statistics director Deborah Little-Bowser explaining the revisions.
Under the previous policy, parents wanting birth certificates for their children were required to produce one document from list of 17 primary documents, or two documents from a list of 18 secondary documents. The primary documents list included items such as a Virginia driver’s license, a U.S. birth certificate, state-issued photo ID card, and certain immigration documents. The secondary list included a U.S. Selective Service Card, U.S. Military discharge papers, and a life insurance policy. The Office of Vital Statistics would not accept foreign passports without visas or birth certificates if they were from a country other than the U.S.
Under the new policy personnel at prenatal care and birth centers may simply complete forms provided by the Office of Vital Statistics asserting who the mother of the child is and the birth certificate will be granted. In cases where even this documentation is not available, personnel at state and federal agencies who are considering offering assistance to the child are entitled to copies of birth certificates.
“The Office of Vital Statistics quickly realized the discriminatory impact of their policy and made appropriate revisions,” said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis. “We are delighted to have settled this matter without having to resort to litigation.”
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