Texas Attorney General Announces Non-Citizen Voter Fraud Charges

Melsida Asatrian's picture

On May 14, 2018, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced that his office had filed charges against a non-U.S. citizen for two counts of election fraud related to the November 2016 presidential election [PDF version]. You may read the indictment here: [PDF version].

The indictment alleges that Laura Janeth Garza, a national of Mexico, “obtained documents to steal the identity of a U.S. citizen and illegally register to vote in Harris County.” Harris County encompasses Houston, Texas. Furthermore, she allegedly cast ballots in 2004, 2012, and 2016. The investigation was prompted when the U.S. citizen sought to obtain a passport, “only to discover that Garza had already done so using the woman's identity.” The case was referred to Texas for investigation by the U.S. Department of State (DOS).

Garza is charged with two second-degree felonies — impersonation of a voter and ineligible voting — under Texas law. If she is convicted of these election fraud offenses, she faces anywhere from two to twenty years in prison and a $10,000 fine. It is important to remember that the indictment details allegations, and that Garza is presumed innocent until or unless proven guilty.

While Garza faces serious criminal charges, it is worth noting that unlawful voting is a serious immigration offense as well. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) includes an inadmissibility provision — section 212(a)(10)(D)(i) — and a deportability provision — section 237(a)(6)(i) — for unlawful voting. Both provisions cover “[a]ny alien who has voted in violation of any Federal, State, or local constitutional provision, statute, ordinance, or regulation.” Even absent other factors charged in the Texas case, such as identity theft, unlawful voting has potentially drastic immigration repercussions. Accordingly, it is imperative that aliens never violate any laws or rules relating to voting.

To learn more about the immigration consequences of unlawful voting, we encourage you to see our two detailed articles on the issue. First, we have published a general overview of the inadmissibility and deportability provisions for unlawful voting [see article]. Second, please also see our article on Matter of Fitzpatrick, 26 I&N Dec. 559 (BIA 2015) [PDF version] [see article], the leading Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) precedent on the provisions.

Texas Attorney General Announces Non-Citizen Voter Fraud Charges