WASHINGTON, DC -- The board of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, a coalition of 45 of the nation’s most preeminent Latino advocacy organizations, adopted a resolution on Monday condemning attempts to deter naturalized citizens from voting in Texas.
The action was passed in response to claims made last week by the Texas Secretary of State’s office that thousands of suspect voters had cast ballots in previous elections. Texas officials, however, based those allegations on a list of people who registered as non-citizens when they applied for a driver’s license or state identification. That information, however, does not reflect whether those individuals obtained citizenship after applying for driver’s license.
“Voter purges and purge threats are the last refuge of political dinosaurs clinging precariously to power, and unable or unwilling to compete in a democracy that welcomes and includes all eligible voters,” said Thomas A. Saenz, NHLA chair and MALDEF president and general counsel. “Seeking refuge by targeting naturalized citizens is despicable and anti-democratic.”
Texas is not the first state to illegally attempt to purge naturalized citizens from its voter rolls. In Florida, state officials made similar charges against naturalized citizens prior to the 2012 elections. LatinoJustice PRLDEF and other groups sued Florida’s Secretary of State and won, preventing that state from purging eligible citizens from its rolls.
“Voting is an expected and encouraged rite of passage for newly naturalized citizens,” said Juan Cartagena, president and general counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “When a State like Texas claims, with no documentation, that naturalized citizens, many of them Latino, are suspect, that in itself is intimidation. We cannot allow the continued vilification of Latinos in Texas or anywhere else. We stand with our colleagues in denouncing this targeted effort to stem the Latino vote.”
“It is no surprise that once again the State of Texas is working to suppress the Latino vote with a fabricated investigation of immigrants’ voting eligibility,” said Lydia Camarillo, president of the Southwest Voter Education Registration Project (SVREP) and the William C. Velasquez Institute (WCVI). “SVREP will continue to fight any discrimination and violation of our voting rights.”
SVREP is among the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed by NHLA-member organization MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) against Texas Secretary of State David Whitley, Governor Greg Abbott, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for conspiring to violate the Constitutional rights of naturalized citizens by improperly and baselessly questioning their eligibility to vote.