Voting and immigration may seem like two very different subjects, but recent pushes by the Democratic Party may connect the two in an unfortunate way.
According to NBC News, voting reform legislation under consideration would lead to automatic voter registration when you obtain a driver’s license or other state identification. While this may seem like a good move to getting people registered to vote, it is a horrible move for immigrants.
As an immigrant, you probably know that registering to vote or trying to vote is illegal. You can only do those things as a legal U.S. citizen. If you do so, even if it is not an intended action on your part, you could violate the law and face potential deportation.
This automatic registration puts you at risk.
The legislation does include an option for you to opt-out of automatic registration. However, you need to know the law is in effect to do so. Nobody will ask you if you want to opt-out. Experts in immigration procedures say this is not enough to protect immigrants from accidental registration.
It is highly possible you could misunderstand the form or not realize that you need to opt-out. If English is not your first language, it is an easy mistake to make. However, you remain completely responsible if the state registers you to vote just as if you did it intentionally.
Even if there is some exception that would protect you against deportation, you could still face other penalties as a result of registering to vote when it is illegal to do so. The government could put a black mark on your case that would prevent you from ever securing citizenship.