19 Foreign Nationals Charged With Illegally Voting

Eliza Grinberg's picture

On August 27, 2018, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) published a news release titled “19 foreign nationals indicted for illegally voting in 2016 elections” [PDF version].

Nineteen foreign nationals in North Carolina were criminally charged with illegally voting in the 2016 election. The indictments stem from an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Nine foreign nationals in North Carolina were charged with falsely claiming U.S. citizenship to register to vote in North Carolina and also with unlawfully voting. These nine individuals face a maximum penalty of six years in federal prison, a fine of $350,000, and a term of supervised release.

An additional nine individuals were charged with voting by an alien. These individuals face up to twelve months in federal prison, a fine of $100,000, and a term of supervised release.

The most serious charges were levied against Diana Patricia Franco-Rodriguez, a 26 year old national of Mexico. She was charged with fraud and misuse of visas in addition to unlawfully voting. She faces up to 26 years in federal prison, a fine of $350,000, and a term of supervised release.

In addition to the charges against 19 aliens, one U.S. citizen, Denslo Allen Page, was charged with aiding and abetting one of the aliens in falsely claiming citizenship to register to vote. For this charge, he faces a maximum sentence of five years' federal imprisonment, a fine of $350,000, and a term of supervised release.

ICE reminded readers that “[t]he charges and allegations contained in the indictments are merely accusations. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.” The cases are being prosecuted by the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

Unlawful Voting and Immigration Generally

Although unlawful voting may not seem to some to be as serious as other criminal offenses that have adverse immigration consequences, a conviction for unlawful voting in an election can be fatal to one's immigration prospects. Section 212(a)(10)(D) provides for inadmissibility for unlawful voting and section 237(a)(6)(i) is a parallel deportability provision. There is a very limited exception to unlawful voting inadmissibility and deportability for individuals who were brought to the United States as children and reasonably believed at the time of the unlawful voting that they were citizens. Finally, depending on the sentence, a conviction for unlawful voting may constitute a bar to good moral character for purposes of naturalization or eligibility for certain types of relief from removal. To learn about the immigration consequences of unlawful voting in detail, please see our full article on the subject [see article].

In some cases, an alien who is convicted of unlawful voting may also be inadmissible or deportable for having made a false claim to U.S. citizenship. A false claim to U.S. citizenship is often fatal to one's immigration prospects, and it also constitutes a crime involving moral turpitude. To learn more about the immigration consequences of false claims to U.S. citizenship, please see our article index [see index].

It is important to remember that noncitizens are never allowed to vote in federal elections and are, in the vast majority of cases, not allowed to vote in local elections (limited jurisdictions allow noncitizen voting in local elections, but even in these cases, a noncitizen should exercise extreme caution and consult with an experienced attorney before proceeding, if at all). This applies even if someone offers to register the noncitizen to vote. If an individual is unsure whether he or she is a U.S. citizen, the individual should consult with an experienced immigration attorney immediately for a resolution of that issue before making any claims to citizenship.

19 Foreign Nationals Charged With Illegally Voting