After voting in 24 straight federal elections in Texas, an illegal alien is going to prison, and then back to Mexico.
It’s about time. There could be 58,000 more where he came from.
“He’s been voting since at least 1994,” Bexar County elections administrator Jacque Callanen said of 75-year-old Enrique Salazar Ortiz.
Salazar appeared on registration rolls as Jesse H. Vargas Jr., who left Texas as a teenager. Salazar bought a copy of Vargas’ birth certificate at a San Antonio bar for $20. A faithful voter, Salazar also appeared to be a frequent drinker. He was convicted three times for drunken driving, but was never deported.
Ironically, Salazar’s bogus voter registration – and his illegal status — went undetected because he regularly went to the polls.
“The best way to keep to keep an illegal voter registration is to use it. That avoids the purge of inactive voters,” said Logan Churchwell of the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), an election integrity watchdog.
“Voting regularly keeps the county from sending an ‘inactive voter’ inquiry letter that requires you to engage with them. If you’re living with someone else’s identity, the last thing you want is someone asking you about it,” he explained.
Salazar’s illegal status came to light when he applied for a U.S. passport. That triggered questions from the State Department about his identity, and it “cascaded down all the way to the illegal voting level,” Churchwell said.
Casting ballots in plain sight is a disturbing aspect of a Texas-sized illegal-voting iceberg. Four days after Salazar’s conviction, Secretary of State David Whitley dropped a bomb: 58,000 non-citizens had voted in one or more Texas elections since 1996.
Whitley’s yearlong canvass of Texas voter rolls indicated that as many as 95,000 non-citizens may hold voter registrations. State Attorney General Ken Paxton promised to investigate and prosecute illegal voting activity.
Texas law requires registered voters to show one of seven forms of photo ID: a Texas driver’s license or handgun license, a U.S. passport, U.S. military ID card, U.S. citizenship certificate or a DPS-issued personal ID card or election identification certificate. Casting a ballot when not eligible to vote is a second-degree felony that carries a prison term of two to 20 years.
As part of a plea bargain in Salazar’s case that resulted in a 30-month sentence, federal prosecutors dismissed charges of false presentation of U.S. citizenship and unlawful possession of a firearm.
In 2016, PILF found 12 Texas counties had more registered voters than voting-age adults. Most of the counties were in South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley, along the Mexican border.
State Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, last year called for statewide registration purges of illegal aliens and non-citizens. Huffines was defeated in his re-election bid by a Democrat in November.
As for Salazar, he hopes for the best after he serves his time behind bars and is finally sent back to Mexico. “Though I’m 75 and without a penny … I take pride that I leave my daughter here,” he said.