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Why a Democratic Voting Bill Can Make Life Difficult for Immigrants


In the US it is a crime for someone who is not a citizen to register to vote and the consequences of doing so range from deportation to jail. That is why lawyers and progressive politicians warn that Democrats must modify parts of their "Law for the People", approved in early March, to face Republican proposals that restrict access to the vote.

By Sahil Kapur - NBC News

WASHINGTON - Some immigration attorneys and progressive politicians warn that a stipulation within Democrats' broad voting rights legislation could unintentionally harm immigrants if it becomes law.

Their concerns reflect a debate among progressives over whether to amend the bill, and have generated tension between two of the party's priorities:

maximizing access to the polls and supporting immigration,

at a time when the Senate, controlled For the Democrats, he returns from recess this week to debate the bill.

The Democrats who wrote the

House of Representatives


For The People Act'

want to require states to automatically register people to vote when they are applying for driver's licenses or state identification , unless they choose to enroll.

[This Peruvian woman voted by accident without being a citizen and was deported.

One mistake can cause others to face the same fate]

Some immigration attorneys are calling attention to this proposal, warning that it could mistakenly register people who are legally in the country on work visas or green

cards (

green cards,

in English



That could have serious consequences, such as deportation or a permanent ban on obtaining citizenship.

A group of people line up at an early voting location in Las Vegas, Nevada, on February 15, 2020.AP Photo / John Locher

Noncitizens are not eligible to vote, so registering to do so could get them in trouble even if they never intended to participate in an election.

They could check the wrong box on a form or misinterpret a question from a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) employee about their legal status and face serious consequences.

"When someone falsely declares that they are a citizen, what we call the kiss of death occurs. It means a permanent black mark

that will prevent a non-citizen from obtaining that status," said Gloria Contreras Edin, an immigration attorney who works in Minnesota.

"With the HR1 automatic voter registration system, there is a risk of a high possibility of an inadvertent violation of that immigration law."

Federal law is strict: it makes it a crime for a non-citizen to falsely claim to be a citizen in order to have benefits such as registering to vote.

There are serious consequences even for inadvertent mistakes.

A person who votes could even go to jail.

"Ignorance doesn't necessarily serve as a defense," said Contreras Edin.

"The proposed plan is likely to harm non-citizens. It could permanently affect legal

green card 


who have been here for 20 or 30 years, working and paying taxes, and who have been here all their lives."

[These migrants celebrate their arrival in the US after risking their lives on the border, but their battle is just beginning]

As the Senate reviews the legislation, immigration attorneys like Contreras Edin, as well as some electoral law experts and progressive strategists, are urging Democrats to make changes through private talks and memos.

They ask to modify the automatic registration for a system that requires proof of citizenship before activating the registration.

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March 31, 202100: 54

The progressive community, which overwhelmingly agrees on the need for automatic voter registration, is debating how best to structure the measure to maximize its effectiveness, reduce harm to immigrants, and defend against political vulnerabilities.

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, which takes credit for helping develop the bill, said it takes the protection of vulnerable communities "very seriously" and argued that

the legislation would protect non-citizens because it would apply only to applicants "who assert that they are citizens of the United States."

Sean Morales-Doyle, deputy director of the Brennan Center said that more than a dozen states have adopted automatic registration systems and he is not aware of any cases in which a non-citizen has been added to the voter rolls.

The automatic voter registration language is endorsed by Latino advocacy group NALEO and Asian Americans Advancing Justice, among others, according to a letter from both dated March 24.

'Underestimating political vulnerability'

The disagreement comes down to how strong the verification should be as to whether or not an immigrant is a citizen.

And that creates tension: the stricter the verification system, the more obstacles it creates in registering people, but the more it differs from agencies, the more room for error there is.

[Two migrant minors tell what they saw in a questioned Texas shelter]

Some progressives argue that if Democrats enact a law registering ineligible people,

they risk fueling Republican criticism that they don't care about the security of the election.

"We as progressives could lose the edge when talking about electoral integrity and access to the polls for a generation," said a progressive strategist with deep roots in the voting rights community.

"If ineligible voters (

green card 


and others) end up on the lists, that gives Republicans and those who are trying to ruin voting rights the ammunition they need."

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April 9, 202 104: 06

The strategist, like more than half a dozen attorneys and advocates who were interviewed, requested anonymity to frankly criticize a bill that is passionately supported by Democrats.

Party leaders say its passage is important to the survival of democracy amid new voting laws led by the Republican Party in states like Georgia, which President Joe Biden has rejected.

The expert said staff members of Senate Rules Committee Chair Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, have been apprised of the concerns.

The legislation received a hearing in late March, and Schumer promised a vote in the full Senate after it passes the committee.

[Republicans Matt Gaetz and Tom Reed are investigated for allegations of sexual misconduct]

Senate Republicans, led by minority leader Mitch McConnell, who represents Kentucky,

have vowed to fight the bill

, describing it as a partisan takeover to impose electoral rules on the states and maximize Democratic prospects of obtaining the power.

An election law expert who has spoken to congressional officials about the bill said lawmakers are "significantly underestimating the political vulnerability" of a bill that could lead to ineligible people being added to the lists.

Source: telemundo

All news articles on 2021-04-13

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