A Peruvian immigrant named Margarita Del Pilar Fitzpatrick walked into a driver’s license office in Illinois and left as a registered voter — after a clerk told her that it was up to her whether or not to register.
That decision led to Fitzpatrick’s eventual deportation, which she now hopes the Supreme Court will overturn.
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The high court has not even decided whether it will take the case, and if it does, the outcome will turn on legal technicalities like the applicability of what is called “entrapment by estoppel.” But one voter integrity group argues that the Fitzpatrick case is the logical result of activists such as billionaire progressive George Soros aggressively promoting ineligible voting and an electoral system that shuns safeguards against fraud.
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“Margarita Fitzpatrick is the return on investment after years of Soros-funded activism,” said Logan Churchwell, a spokesman for the Public Interest Legal Foundation. “There are thousands of Margarita Fitzpatricks out there.”
According to court records, Fitzpatrick went to apply for a driver’s license with her U.S. citizen husband in 2006 shortly after obtaining her green card. The clerk then asked if she wanted to register to vote.
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“Am I supposed to?” she asked, according to her petition for the Supreme Court to take the case.
The clerk, following a script written by the state (since changed), replied: “It’s up to you.”
The voter registration form clearly stated that only American citizens could register. But Fitzpatrick testified at a deposition that she signed up because “He knew the law better than I did.”
The decision came back to haunt her a year later when she applied for citizenship and acknowledged that she had voted twice. An immigration judge ordered her to be deported, and the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision in April.
Fitzpatrick’s attorneys argue that the blame rests with the DMV official.
“The 7th Circuit’s decision applied an absurd reading of the National Voter Registration Act to legitimize a practice that causes cases like Petitioner’s and that endangers law-abiding noncitizens nationwide,” the brief to the Supreme Court states.
The odds that the Supreme Court will hear the case are remote. It takes only a tiny fraction of the cases presented to it each year. And Justice Elena Kagan, who oversees the 7th Circuit, denied a request by Fitzpatrick’s lawyers to delay the deportation while the court decides whether or not to take the case.
The Immigration Reform Law Institute this week filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Supreme Court to deny the request.
“Petitioner brought her removal on herself by choosing to vote illegally,” the brief states.
Christopher Hajec, the organization’s director of litigation, said he has sympathy for Fitzpatrick. But he told LifeZette that the law is clear and must be enforced to deter other noncitizens from voting. He suggested she explore a pardon or other relief from the president.
“I feel sorry for her,” he said. “I think everybody does.”
Hajec agreed it is “not good policy” for driver’s license clerks “even seeming to encourage illegal voting.” But notwithstanding the ambiguous answer the clerk gave, he said, it was up to Fitzpatrick to realize that she was not a citizen and, therefore, not permitted to vote.
“She wasn’t entitled to rely on the DMV clerk’s statement. It’s not plausible that she believed she really was a citizen.”
“She wasn’t entitled to rely on the DMV clerk’s statement,” he said. “It’s not plausible that she believed she really was a citizen.”
Hajec added that illegal voting by noncitizens victimizes all legitimate voters.
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“Every time a noncitizen votes, it violating the Constitution, the constitutional rights of every real voter, because it dilutes their vote,” he said.
Churchwell, the Public Interest Legal Foundation spokesman, said public officials should not be sending mixed messages. He noted that in addition to the statement the clerk made, the city of Chicago allows legal permanent residents with children enrolled in public schools to vote in school board elections.
“We’ve started to see common sense and logic are falling victim to, ‘I’ve got to give everyone a chance to register to vote,'” even if they are not citizens, he said. “She was in a state where noncitizens can legally vote … That might become confusing for her.”
Churchwell said legal immigrants have the most to lose when public officials blur the distinctions between citizens and noncitizens.
“We’ve got to make sure we’re not setting them up to fail,” he said.
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