Don't Risk It
As election season approaches, and with the Census in progress, it is common to find people offering us to register to vote. This may be very convenient, but at the same time puts both undocumented individuals and legal residents who are not yet U.S. citizens, at risk.
Most people don't know that registering to vote, whether they vote or not, without being a citizen is a crime punishable not only with jail time, but with deportation. Unfortunately, the fact that a person didn’t known that they couldn’t vote or register to vote is not a valid excuse.
Ilisa Mora, from the Catholic Legal Immigration Network INC. wrote: Unlawful voting has serious consequences for noncitizens. A noncitizen is removable under INA § 237(a)(6)(A), regardless of whether the alien knew that he or she was unlawfully voting in violation of 18 USC § 611(a). Matter of Fitzpatrick, 26 I&N Dec. 559 (BIA 2015).
In 2015, AB 1461 was passed by Assemblywoman Lorena González. This requires automatic registration of individuals when applying for a license with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Unfortunately, this has put thousands of people at risk of deportation, since the DMV admitted to wrongly registering more than 23,000 Unfit-to-Vote Californians in 2018.
Unfortunately in various court cases filed across the country, legal residents whom the DMV has registered to vote have received a deportation order when processing their citizenship, because they have registered and some have even voted without being citizens, and the court has stated that it is not enough justification that the person has not been aware that it is illegal to vote or register to vote without being a citizen.
The Washington Center for Law Help recommends that, if an individual has been registered to vote without being a citizen, he/she immediately remove their name from the list of voters by sending the County Auditor's Office a letter that says, "Please cancel my voter registration." It also recommends that those who have already voted without being citizens seek an immigration lawyer so that they are prepared to defend them if they are detained.
The advice is: Don't take a chance and obey the law. When you are offered to register to vote or even if you receive a package to vote in the mail, and you know you are not a citizen, get rid of it. If you are seeking advice, do so directly on the Immigration page, unfortunately there are many well-meaning people, but with erroneous information.