Common Sense Agreement in for Texas ID Rules for Immigrant Kids’ Birth Certificates

John Lawmit

The state of Texas has agreed to expand the types of documents immigrant parents can give to get birth certificates for their children born in the United States, settling a lawsuit filed by immigrant families.

The lawsuit was filed after the state stopped accepting foreign identification cards provided by a consulate, leaving many undocumented parents with no way to get birth certificates for their American-born children. A birth certificate is essential for receiving the full rights of U.S. citizenship.

The settlement allows parents from Mexico to use a voter identification card obtained from Mexican consulates in the U.S., and parents from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras can use identification documents certified by their consulates.

Dallas-area immigration attorney John W. Lawit believes this groundbreaking decision represents the beginning of the end of the denial of birth certificates to the children of immigrants or sometimes even U.S. Citizens:

Texas is singularly the most difficult state in the U.S. to get birth certificates for U.S. citizen children born to undocumented immigrants. The issuance of Texas birth certificates seems like a never-ending battle. Up until now, each parent would have to file a lawsuit in federal court to get a hearing regarding the citizenship of the child. Sometimes the issue would be raised in the context of an application for a U.S. passport or through an application for the issuance of a birth certificate by the State of Texas.

These lawsuits are common in the counties that form our border with Mexico. The cost of such litigation is staggering for most; so many children never get the opportunity to demand their birthright citizenship.

With this settlement, Texas is taking the steps to give children a meaningful opportunity to obtain a birth certificate without having to resort to litigation.

Ninth Circuit Declares Google Satellite Image and GPS Tack Not Hearsay

google earthThe Ninth Circuit court of appeals upheld an illegal immigrant’s conviction for his illegal re-entry into the US who claimed a Google Earth Satellite image was hearsay.

Paciano Lizarraga-Tirado was attempting to cross the US-Mexico border when he was taken into custody by the US border patrol.  At trial, Lizarraga-Tirado asserted that he was still in Mexico when arrested.  Border Patrol agents testified they arrested him north of the border and recorded the coordinates of the arrest with a GPS device.

Satellite image and pictures make no assertions

The government introduced a Google Earth satellite image with a digital “tack” labeled with the GPS coordinates of the arrest site at trial. Lizarraga-Tirado’s counsel objected to the use of the image on hearsay grounds. The district court overruled the objection and admitted the image.

Lizarraga-Tirado appealed his conviction, asserting that the Google image and “tack” were hearsay.

The Ninth Circuit ruled that the Google satellite image, much like a photograph, “merely depicts a scene as it existed at a particular time.”  The satellite image is permissible because, like a photograph, “it makes no assertion” and is not hearsay.

GPS tack possibly hearsay

The tack identifying the GPS coordinates presented a more difficult question to the court because labeled markers do make clear assertions as to what the tack is marking exists on the map and on land. The tack, if placed and labeled manually with a name or GPS coordinates by a person, would present a case of classic hearsay.

In the Google Earth satellite image, the tack was not placed manually, but is a function of the Google Earth program that allows for a person to input GPS coordinates but cannot control where the tack is being placed.  Because the Google Earth program automatically places the tack on the location of the coordinates, it is a machine statement and is not hearsay.

The court also tested the coordinates on the Google Earth program and determined that the tack is placed on the same location as seen in the satellite image admitted as evidence.

The court acknowledged that machine statements can present evidentiary concerns that can be addressed by rules of authentication; however Lizarraga-Tirado did not raise any authentication objections, so the hearsay objection was properly overruled and his conviction confirmed.

The case is U.S. v. Lizarraga-Tirado, case no. 13-10530, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.