Green Card holder ordered removed for voting in US election

Green Card holder ordered removed for voting in US election

On February 13, 2017, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (which is one level below the US Supreme Court), upheld the deportation/removal of a green card holder because she registered to vote and voted in a US election. This issue came up when she applied for naturalization.

When asked by the court whether she was the “kind of person” DHS wanted to remove from the United States (she was married to a US citizen, had three US citizen children, and had otherwise led a productive and unblemished life in the US), DHS replied “yes”, and would not even consider exercising prosecutorial discretion.

In that case, this person had lived in the US for three years, when she applied for a driver’s license. When filling out the forms, she showed her green card, but she also checked a box on the form claiming to be a US citizen. The form at the DMV also contained a box asking if the person wanted to register to vote. The DMV clerk also asked her whether she wanted to register to vote, and she asked, “Am I supposed to?”, to which the clerk replied, “It’s up to you.” She then checked the box, was duly registered, and voted twice in federal elections.

When applying for citizenship, there were several questions on the N-400 form, asking about whether the person ever claimed to be a US citizen, registered to vote, or voted in US elections. She honestly responded, which led to her being placed in removal/deportation proceedings. (Please note DHS can also check the database of the registrar of voters, to find out if the person ever registered to vote, even if they answer “no” to the N-400 Citizenship Form).

The Seventh Circuit pointed out immigration law is clear: non-citizens are forbidden from registering to vote or voting in federal elections. The person tried to argue she was confused or misled by the DMV clerk, when the clerk said, “It’s up to you”, whether she wanted to register to vote. The court said she should have known the law, and now must bear the consequences. In other words, ignorance of the law is no excuse.

Many people mistakenly register to vote out of confusion or ignorance of the law. For example, they may completely fill out a form at the DMV, which includes a section about registering to vote. Other times, there are people standing outside supermarkets, with clipboards, asking if the person wants to register to vote. They neglect to advise the person they must be a US citizen. When they get the postcard from the registrar of voters, they then think they have permission or it’s okay to vote. However, as you can see, there can be devastating consequences. This is especially true with the current Trump administration, where the president continually claims that “millions” of people voted illegally.

Many people who have immigration issues or problems often are “caught” when applying for naturalization. Had this woman never applied for citizenship, her violation may not have come to the attention of the authorities.

That is why I advise, especially with the current Trump administration, you seek the advice and guidance of an attorney, because you may inadvertently “rock the boat”, and find yourself in removal proceedings for doing something you did not even realize was wrong.

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