Home­land Se­cu­rity lacks com­pi­la­tion of il­le­gal vot­ers

Panel faces tough task

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY ROWAN SCAR­BOR­OUGH

Pres­i­dent’s Trump’s com­mis­sion plans to place sig­nif­i­cant reliance on data from the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity to de­ter­mine the ex­tent of il­le­gal vot­ing by nonci­t­i­zens.

But the com­mis­sion, headed by Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence and Kansas Sec­re­tary of State Kris Kobach, may be in for un­pleas­ant sur­prises.

Home­land Se­cu­rity’s U.S. Cit­i­zen­ship and Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vices is per­haps the only gov­ern­ment agency that asks le­gal nonci­t­i­zen res­i­dents, un­der the penalty of per­jury, if they broke the law and reg­is­tered to vote or voted. It would be one im­por­tant data point in as­sess­ing the breadth of voter fraud across Amer­ica.

But as The Washington Times found out in a de­nied Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act re­quest, USCIS does not track and ar­chive such in­for­ma­tion. There is no com­pi­la­tion for po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tists, schol­ars or a gov­ern­ment com­mis­sion to re­search. The

Pence com­mis­sion would have to ask Home­land Se­cu­rity to re­view ev­ery ap­pli­ca­tion — nearly 1 mil­lion last year alone — to find each re­ply.

That is one find­ing in The Times’ re­view of Home­land Se­cu­rity Depart­ment op­er­a­tions as they re­late to il­le­gal vot­ing by nonci­t­i­zens. Other points:

● The com­mis­sion says it plans to com­pare nonci­t­i­zen per­ma­nent res­i­dent files with pub­lic voter reg­is­tra­tion ros­ters. But Home­land Se­cu­rity does not have the names of mil­lions of nonci­t­i­zens liv­ing in the U.S. il­le­gally. The gap means the panel can­not cross-check those res­i­dents, leav­ing one ma­jor ques­tion an­swered.

● The USCIS man­ual dis­cour­ages of­fi­cers from dis­qual­i­fy­ing a nat­u­ral­iza­tion ap­pli­cant who stands con­victed of vot­ing il­le­gally if it is the lone of­fense.

● USCIS has no pol­icy for re­fer­ring to pros­e­cu­tors ap­pli­cants who ad­mit to il­le­gal vot­ing.

● Ap­pli­cants who deny ever vot­ing are not sub­jected to au­to­matic ver­i­fi­ca­tion by scan­ning pub­licly avail­able voter ros­ters. In theory, Home­land Se­cu­rity could take the ap­pli­cant’s name and ad­dress and com­pare the data to the per­son’s lo­cal voter lists, but it does not.

“Go­ing for­ward, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and the pres­i­den­tial com­mis­sion should in­ves­ti­gate all pos­si­bil­i­ties for im­proved data shar­ing be­tween the DHS, Depart­ment of Jus­tice and state elec­tion of­fi­cials to iden­tify il­le­gal voter reg­is­tra­tions and bal­lots cast there­after,” said Lo­gan Church­well, a spokesman for the Pub­lic In­ter­est Le­gal Foun­da­tion, a con­ser­va­tive non­profit law firm. “That’s what real elec­tion mod­ern­iza­tion looks like.”

Con­ser­va­tive grass-roots groups such as the le­gal foun­da­tion as­sert that large num­bers of aliens, per­haps in the mil­lions, reg­is­ter to vote and vote il­le­gally for Congress and the pres­i­dency — and they vote mostly for Democrats.

Data on what prospec­tive cit­i­zens say about their vot­ing his­tory would be a valu­able re­search tool to add to a knowl­edge base of sci­en­tific polling and on­go­ing voter ros­ter in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Vot­ing his­tory is in­cluded in Form N-400, the U.S. Cit­i­zen­ship and Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vices ap­pli­ca­tion to be­come a nat­u­ral­ized U.S. cit­i­zen.

In Part 12 of the N-400, the ques­tion­naire asks:

1. Have you EVER reg­is­tered to vote in any Fed­eral, state, or lo­cal elec­tion in the United States?

2. Have you EVER voted in any Fed­eral, state, or lo­cal elec­tion in the United States?

The Times asked the USCIS pub­lic af­fairs of­fice for a com­pi­la­tion of the answers for the past 10 years. A spokes­woman said the news­pa­per would need to file a re­quest un­der the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act, which The Times sub­se­quently did.

The re­sponse let­ter from the FOIA of­fice said: “We are un­able to fill this re­quest. Our agency does not track this spe­cific in­for­ma­tion.”

An im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cial, who asked not to be iden­ti­fied, said the agency is fol­low­ing FOIA law in deny­ing The Times’ re­quest be­cause the data were not in an ex­ist­ing re­port or com­pi­la­tion.

Other Home­land Se­cu­rity poli­cies ap­pear to go soft on il­le­gal vot­ing.

The im­mi­gra­tion ser­vice has guide­lines for de­ter­min­ing a cit­i­zen­ship ap­pli­cant’s “good moral char­ac­ter.” A lack of “GMC,” as the man­ual calls it, can lead to de­nial of cit­i­zen­ship. Of­fenses that can re­sult in de­nial in­clude be­ing in prison for 180 days or longer, pros­ti­tu­tion, two or more gam­bling of­fenses, “ha­bit­ual drunk­ard,” drug ped­dling and crimes against one’s fam­ily such as sex­ual abuse.

Un­der un­law­ful vot­ing, the pol­icy reads, if the ap­pli­cant is con­victed of il­le­gal vot­ing but not im­pris­oned for 180 days or more, then the con­vic­tion is “un­likely a [crime of moral turpi­tude] and will not bar GMC by it­self.”

The guid­ance fur­ther states: “A con­vic­tion for un­law­ful vot­ing, by it­self, gen­er­ally should not bar an ap­pli­cant from es­tab­lish­ing GMC be­cause the con­vic­tion is un­likely to be a CIMT.”

In other words, with the phrase “should not bar,” Home­land Se­cu­rity is ad­vis­ing of­fi­cers to be le­nient.

Ar­wen FitzGer­ald, an im­mi­gra­tion ser­vices spokes­woman, said the agency does not have a pol­icy of look­ing the other way.

“USCIS does not have a pol­icy, of­fi­cial or oth­er­wise, that dis­cour­ages of­fi­cers from deny­ing nat­u­ral­iza­tion ap­pli­cants if they have voted un­law­fully,” she said. “Un­law­ful vot­ing and false claim to U.S. cit­i­zen­ship for vot­ing may be un­law­ful acts. An ap­pli­cant who has com­mit­ted, was con­victed, or im­pris­oned for an un­law­ful act or acts dur­ing the good moral char­ac­ter (GMC) pe­riod may be found to lack GMC.”

Ms. FitzGer­ald said the agency “does not have a mech­a­nism in place to cross­check voter reg­is­tra­tion.” Of­fi­cers who sus­pect voter fraud can turn in­for­ma­tion over to the fraud de­tec­tion and na­tional se­cu­rity branch.

Ms. FitzGer­ald said that if an ap­pli­cant de­nies il­le­gal vot­ing but an of­fi­cer sus­pects oth­er­wise, then the of­fi­cer can de­mand any vot­ing records that may per­tain to the nonci­t­i­zen with the lo­cal board of elec­tion. If the ap­pli­cant re­fuses, then the of­fi­cer can deny cit­i­zen­ship.

Pence com­mis­sion

Although Home­land Se­cu­rity does not rou­tinely cross-check voter lists, the Pence com­mis­sion on voter fraud plans to do just that.

Mr. Trump signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der May 11 cre­at­ing the panel, to be led by the vice pres­i­dent and Mr. Kobach, a voter fraud hawk.

Mr. Kobach, a Re­pub­li­can, told The Times that the com­mis­sion will com­pare Home­land Se­cu­rity’s com­pre­hen­sive list of im­mi­grants and visa hold­ers with pub­lic voter reg­is­tra­tion lists in all 50 states and the Dis­trict of Columbia.

But if il­le­gal im­mi­grants are vot­ing, and polls say they are, then Mr. Kobach’s staff will not find their names at Home­land Se­cu­rity.

“Given the na­ture of an un­doc­u­mented in­di­vid­ual, we are un­able to track names or main­tain a data­base,” Ms. FitzGer­ald said.

The 2013 cen­sus found that nearly 20 mil­lion nonci­t­i­zen adults, le­gal and non­le­gal im­mi­grants, live in the U.S. They are not legally en­ti­tled to reg­is­ter to vote or to vote. Home­land Se­cu­rity es­ti­mates that about 12 mil­lion il­le­gal im­mi­grants re­side in the U.S. A Home­land Se­cu­rity Depart­ment of­fi­cial told Congress that the num­ber could be a high as 15 mil­lion.

Democrats and lib­eral groups such as the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union and the Bren­nan Cen­ter con­tend that there is lit­tle or no il­le­gal vot­ing in Amer­ica. A group of lib­eral po­lit­i­cal science pro­fes­sors con­tend that “zero” il­le­gal im­mi­grants vote — a po­si­tion be­lied by the pres­ence of thou­sands of such peo­ple on voter rolls.

Con­ser­va­tive groups say the prob­lem is largely un­der the radar, given the lack of reg­is­tra­tion cross-checks and lit­tle in­ter­est by pros­e­cu­tors or states to delve deeply into voter fraud.

They point to data points such as the 2013 His­panic Poll con­ducted by a rep­utable Re­pub­li­can polling firm for the wine in­dus­try.

As a sub­set of ques­tion­ing, the poll asked a sam­ple of His­pan­ics in the U.S. if they were cit­i­zens and if they were reg­is­tered to vote. The re­sult: 13 per­cent of nonci­t­i­zens said they were reg­is­tered.

Ap­plied to 11.8 mil­lion nonci­t­i­zen His­panic adults, the num­ber who are il­le­gally reg­is­tered could range from 800,000 to 2.2 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to a cal­cu­la­tion by the non­profit re­search in­sti­tute Just Facts.

Other ev­i­dence is based on peo­ple, not polls.

Spot checks by con­ser­va­tive ac­tivists in Vir­ginia and Mary­land have found hun­dreds of nonci­t­i­zens reg­is­tered to vote based on a lim­ited sam­ple of jury pool ques­tion­naires com­pared with voter lists. Peo­ple who dis­qual­i­fied them­selves from ju­ries be­cause of nonci­t­i­zen­ship were found to be on voter rolls.

On May 30, the Pub­lic In­ter­est Le­gal Foun­da­tion re­leased ones of its most com­pre­hen­sive re­ports.

Its in­ves­ti­ga­tion found that Vir­ginia, which elects its next gover­nor this year, re­moved more than 5,500 nonci­t­i­zens from voter lists, in­clud­ing 1,852 peo­ple who had cast more than 7,000 bal­lots.

The group said the state re­moved these peo­ple af­ter they vol­un­tar­ily ad­mit­ted to be­ing nonci­t­i­zens, most likely in ob­tain­ing a driver’s li­cense when the cit­i­zen­ship ques­tion is asked.

The Pub­lic In­ter­est Le­gal Foun­da­tion, which filed three law­suits to ob­tain data, said that what re­mains un­known is how many nonci­t­i­zens are still vot­ers be­cause they have not ad­mit­ted to be­ing in­el­i­gi­ble.

“In this elec­tion year, aliens must not cast il­le­gal bal­lots, and if they do, they must be pros­e­cuted,” said J. Chris­tian Adams, the le­gal foun­da­tion’s pres­i­dent who served as a lawyer in the Ge­orge W. Bush Jus­tice Depart­ment.

Mr. Trump has talked of a com­pre­hen­sive com­mis­sion study, not just queries about il­le­gal im­mi­grants. He wants Mr. Pence’s com­mis­sion­ers also to de­ter­mine how many dead peo­ple stay on the rolls and how many peo­ple are reg­is­tered in more than one state.

The pres­i­dent sus­pects mil­lions of peo­ple voted il­le­gally in the Nov. 8 elec­tion.

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