CHICAGO – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has denied the application of a Peruvian national to stay in the country, following the discovery that the non-citizen voted twice in federal elections.
Margarita Del Pilar Fitzpatrick came to the U.S. to study English in college and earned a certificate as a medical translator. She worked as an interpreter and then began training to be a nurse. She was married to a U.S. citizen and has three children who are U.S. citizens.
She had been living in the U.S. for three years and applied for a driver’s license in Illinois. During the application process, she had to fill out forms at the Illinois Secretary of State's driver services facility and used her green card and Peruvian passport as identification. While filling in the forms she admitted that she checked a box on the form claiming she was a citizen of the U.S.
“The form sternly warns aliens not to check that box, and Fitzpatrick does not contend that she has any difficulty in understanding written English,” the court documents state.
On the form there was a checkbox that would allow her to register as a voter. She did so after the clerk inquired whether she wanted to register. She then proceeded to vote for federal officials twice in 2006.
The court emphasized that non-residents were not allowed to vote in elections. There is a statute that allows for the removal of non-citizens who vote in state or federal elections.
She was discovered after a 2007 application for citizenship. She answered honestly about her 2006 voting history.
She defended her actions by claiming she had official approval or authorization.
“The defense is available to someone who makes complete and accurate representations to a public official and then received permission from that official, when acting within the scope of his or her authority,” the court stated.
She claims that the clerk at the driver services facility told her it was up to her if she checked the box to register to vote. However, the court documents state that what the clerk told her “was a refusal to give advice, not an assurance that it was lawful to register.”
The court record also noted that it is against federal law for state officials to say anything that may discourage an individual applying for a driver’s license from registering to vote.
The record also notes that registration to vote does not mean a person can vote in any election, as “a person registered in Illinois cannot vote for governor of Indiana.” It states that if Fitzpatrick had done any research into the legalities of voting, she would have discovered that it is illegal for non-citizens to vote.
After discovering that she voted in federal elections, the Department of Homeland Security began proceedings to have her removed from the country.
An immigration judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals agreed that she must leave the country.
The court said it had no other option but to deny her appeal of the Board of Immigration Appeals decision.
The case was argued on Jan. 17 at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The court issued its opinion on Feb. 13.