In 2002, Indiana passed a law requiring a social security number to establish fatherhood. In 2010, that law was implemented.
South Bend attorney Felipe Merino predicts that the undocumented will not risk going to court to establish paternity. “If the parents are both undocumented, the child still gets a birth certificate under the mother’s name. “
In July, Indiana hospitals were given new rules for birth certificates and paternity affidavits (PA). A man who wishes to establish paternity is given a document on his rights and responsibilities to read in the hospital. He needs a picture ID and a social security number. His paperwork is notarized in the hospital. If he has a valid social security number, his name will appear on the birth certificate. A PA allows a man to claim to be the father of a child whose mother is not his wife. Parents can file for joint custody within 60 days of the child’s birth. They must get a paternity test done within 60 days of the child’s birth and file the results with the local health department. After 60 days, a PA can still be filed, but custody of the child must be established through the court. (Paternity tests are not cheap, costing from $200-$500).
Another major change which occurs at the hospital has to do with unmarried parents wishing to establish paternity. They are separated to read the PA. If they don’t have social security numbers, they cannot fill out a PA and must go to court to establish who the father is.
According to Goshen General and Elkhart General hospitals, the changes have been met with frustration and suspicion. They appeared to some to signal increased targeting and harassment of area Latinos. Donna Stiver, a registered nurse and manager of Maternity Services at Elkhart General Hospital, disagrees.
Regardless of what identification a woman has, “ we will still take care of her.”
Stiver added that parents now get their baby’s birth certificate and social security number from the county health department a week or two after birth. She stressed that these requirements apply to all parents, not just Latino parents.
“These aren’t our (hospital) policies,” Stiver said. “It’s the law of the state of Indiana.”
Jill Roberts, registrar on Circles of Caring Birthplace at Goshen General Hospital told a similar story. Her colleague, Bridget Levine, RN and director of the Birthplace, added that “all OB providers (affiliated with Goshen Hospital) have been provided this information and hopefully try to make it part of prenatal care.”
Representatives at both hospitals stressed that their staffs do not check to see if a man and woman are married or have valid social security numbers, but they don’t have to because those determinations will be made later when the couple tries to obtain the child’s birth certificate at the health department. The Elkhart county health department, for example, requires a copy of a parent’s identification.
It might seem as if the simple way to avoid all this would be for couples simply to say they are married then request their child’s birth certificate from the health department, but they still need social security numbers.
So, what is going on here?
Hospital representatives at both Elkhart General and Goshen General are quick to point out that these requirements do not target anyone, that they are the same for anyone who comes in to have a baby.
South Bend immigration attorney Rudy Monterrosa disagrees.
“Of course they’re targeting somebody,” he said, barely able to keep the frustration out of his voice. “State agencies – the bureau of motor vehicles (BMV), the department of health – target people who don’t have a social security number. That number is for when we retire. We put money into the system, we get money back. It has nothing to do with driving licenses or birth certificates.”
Monterrosa sees it as a case of state agencies trying to make federal policy. “The BMV got sued by the ACLU (when it began requiring social security numbers to get a driver’s license). They didn’t go through the proper channels. After they lost they started going through the proper channels. This situation (with the PAs) definitely needs to go to court.”
Felipe Merino sees this as an attempt by the government to shut off citizenship from children born of undocumented foreigners. “We are going to be putting a heavy burden on the legal system,” he predicts. “This is a problem about guaranteeing responsible fathers and care of children; it is not a problem about people being undocumented.”
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