The U.S. immigration agency that holds millions of records on noncitizens living legally in the U.S. will not commit to turning over that data to President Trump’s commission on voter fraud.
The Commission on Election Integrity already has clashed with Democrat-run states that are refusing to meet its written requests to provide voter rolls. The information is considered public and is often given or sold to political groups.
Commission Vice Chairman Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, told The Washington Times in May that he also wants U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to provide the identifications of noncitizens living as permanent residents with green cards.
The idea is to compare that huge list with another large database, this one of registered voters maintained by the states. Under federal law, it is illegal for noncitizens to register and to vote in federal elections. Polls and some spot-check investigations suggest that many do.
The Times asked CIS, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, whether it would comply with a request from the commission, which is headed by Vice President Mike Pence.
The agency provided a statement to The Times that fell short of a commitment: “It would be speculative and premature to comment on any future hypothetical request from the Commission to DHS for information.”
The statement also noted that Mr. Trump’s executive order states that the commission’s work “shall be implemented consistent with applicable law.”
Homeland Security’s answer suggests that federal law may block data transfer.
The Trump executive order states, “Relevant executive departments and agencies shall endeavor to cooperate with the Commission.”
Acquiring immigration data would seem critical to the commission if it is to settle a raging question: How many noncitizens in the U.S. vote illegally? Liberals generally say few, if any, go to the polls. Conservative activists and Mr. Trump contend that many cast ballots, and mostly for Democrats.
The only way to find hard numbers, at least for legal immigrants, would be to compare voter rolls with immigration rolls, and the only agency that keeps such noncitizen data is the Homeland Security Department.
How many legal noncitizens of voting age live in the U.S. today?
James Agresti, president of Just Facts, said the U.S. Census Bureau puts the number at 11.29 million and Homeland Security statistics calculate a higher number: 11.9 million.
The polling estimate for illegal immigrants living in the U.S. is another 11 million, approximately, with most of voting age.
“I think DHS needs to make it available,” said Tom Fitton, Judicial Watch president. “They’ve made it difficult, if not impossible, for states to use that information. And if they get in the way of a presidential commission doing it, then that shows you the deep state is still running the show.”
The “deep state” is a label conservatives use to describe federal government employees and officials appointed by President Obama who are conspiring to sabotage the Trump administration.
“This is a serious issue. Voter fraud is a serious issue,” Mr. Fitton said. Whether it’s a few hundred thousand or a few million, we need to figure out what the scope of the problem is so it can be addressed. The data is available. It’s just a matter of matching data. It’s not an issue of going out and knocking on doors.”
But Myrna Perez, who heads the Brennan Center’s voting rights and elections project, called Mr. Kobach’s plan a “witch hunt.”
“I think engaging in some sort of witch hunt to try to find noncitizen voters on the rolls is a tremendous waste of time and a misuse of taxpayer resources,” Ms. Perez said. “There have been numerous analyses of studies that indicate that there are not that many noncitizens on the rolls, and very few of them vote.”
Ms. Perez, who authored the study “Noncitizen Voting: The Missing Millions,” also said Homeland Security’s information can be unreliable.
“I also think we do not have in our country an always up-to-date list of noncitizens,” she said. “DHS will have some of them. We don’t make everybody register like that. We don’t have a citizenship registry. And then people’s statuses change. For example, some of the states have issues whereby they think someone will be a noncitizen because they presented a green card for a driver’s license, but they got the driver’s license four years ago, and in the last two years, they became a citizen. It’s hard to correct for things like that.”
The Times reported on June 4 that Homeland Security has another source of data that could go a long way in determining the breadth of noncitizen voting.
All permanent residents who apply for citizenship must answer, under penalty of perjury, whether they have illegally registered to vote and whether they have voted.
It is perhaps the only government questionnaire that asks such questions.
The Times filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the answers to those two questions going back 10 years and involving millions of applicants.
The U.S. immigration agency denied the request, saying the answers are not compiled and archived. They would have to be individually searched on millions of forms if the Pence-Kobach commission made such a request.