How Many Non-Citizen Voters? Enough to Make a Difference

Social Contract Press, September 25, 2008

Contact: Fran Griffin

Griffin Communications

E-Mail: Fran Griffin ([email protected])

Thursday, September 25, 2008

WASHINGTON, DC- A new study—to be released on October 7—estimates that there were between 300,000 and 595,000 non-citizens registered as voters in California in 2007, a substantial voting bloc for the upcoming election.

“How Many Non-Citizen Voters? Enough to Make a Difference: The Impact of Non-Citizen Voting on the American Elections” by immigration researcher David Simcox will be released by The Social Contract Press at a News Conference at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, October 7, at the National Press Club (Zenger room, 529 14th St., NW) in Washington, D.C. The new report estimates that there were 1.2 to 2.7 million non-citizens registered as voters nationwide in 2006.

The report also finds that seven congressional districts in Los Angeles County with large populations of non-citizens in 2000 showed significantly higher voter registration rates than in the county and the state. These seven districts are estimated to have between 51,400 and 117,150 questionable registrations. In California statewide, 65.9% of those eligible in 2000 were registered to vote, but in the seven congressional districts studied, the eligible to registered percentages are above 90%, suggesting the presence of ineligible voters.

In the 43rd congressional district, there were more people registered than legally eligible to vote. The 47th congressional district (Orange County), held by Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, is among those with a disproportionate number of registered voters. Ms. Sanchez ousted former incumbent Robert K. Dornan for this seat in 1996 in an election marked by claims that as many as 4000 ineligible non-citizens had voted.

David Simcox, who researches and writers on population and immigration trends, examined the U.S. Census data; two 2007 reports of California think tanks including the 2007 statewide survey conducted by the respected Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC); Pew Hispanic Center figures; the Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles of Loyola Marymount University; and California voter registration records in compiling his findings.

Copies of the study will be available for interested journalists.

Photos available for this release:

Cover of the new study, “How Many Non-Citizen Voters? Enough to Make a Difference” by David Simcox

To view photos, go to www.enr-corp.com/pressroom and enter Release ID: 168035.

For more information, contact Fran Griffin ([email protected]fnews.com)

[Editor’s Note, October 9: The report itself is now available on-line here.]


Immigration law enforcement has been a key ingredient contributing to the success of criminal gang suppression efforts in many jurisdictions across the United States. Since 2005, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has arrested more than 8,000 gangsters from more than 700 different gangs as part of a special initiative known as Operation Community Shield. This effort has produced incalculable public safety benefits for American communities, despite being criticized periodically by immigrant and civil liberties advocates that are consistently opposed to all immigration law enforcement.

Local governments and law enforcement agencies that shun involvement in immigration law enforcement are missing an opportunity to protect their communities from criminal immigrant gang activity. Policymakers should take further steps to institutionalize partnerships between state and local law enforcement agencies and ICE in order to address gang and other crime problems with a connection to immigration.

Immigrant gangs1 are considered a unique public safety threat due to their members’ propensity for violence and their involvement in transnational crime. The latest national gang threat assessment noted that Hispanic gang membership has been growing, especially in the Northeast and the South, and that areas with new immigrant populations are especially vulnerable to gang activity. 2 A large share of the immigrant gangsters in the most notorious gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), Surenos-13, and 18th Street are illegal aliens. Their illegal status means they are especially vulnerable to law enforcement, and local authorities should take advantage of the immigration tools available in order to disrupt criminal gang activity, remove gang members from American communities, and deter their return. Once explained, these measures find much support, especially in immigrant communities where gang crime is rampant.

This report describes the exceptional public safety problems posed by immigrant gangs and looks at how one jurisdiction, Virginia, has used immigration law enforcement tools successfully to check their further proliferation. The authors conducted extensive research on immigrant gang characteristics and activities, analyzed arrest data from Operation Community Shield (OCS), and interviewed dozens of federal, state, and local law enforcement officers around the country who are involved in gang suppression. They were assisted by consultants with federal law enforcement experience and by research interns. 3 This report is a product of a larger study on immigrant gangs in Virginia (forthcoming), supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Among the findings:

* The growth of transnational gangs has been a dangerous side effect of our failure to control the U.S.-Mexico border and our tolerance for high levels of illegal immigration.

* Transnational immigrant gangs are spreading out across the United States, in suburban and rural areas as well as in established urban street gang environments. We found MS-13 activity in 48 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.

* The aliens arrested under Operation Community Shield collectively represent a significant menace to the public. The vast majority (80 percent) have committed serious crimes in addition to immigration violations, and a large number (40 percent) have violent criminal histories (See Table 3).

* ICE gang arrests have occurred nationwide, with the largest numbers made by the offices in San Diego, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Dallas (see Table 1). Some jurisdictions with serious gang problems had just a few OCS arrests, such as Phoenix, with only 81 arrests, and Houston, with 84 arrests. Los Angeles, the gang capital of the nation, had fewer than 300 arrests. These same jurisdictions also had controversial “sanctuary” or “don’t ask, don’t tell” policies on immigration status in place over the time period studied.

* Nearly half, or 3,080, of the aliens arrested over the two-and-a-half-year period studied were affiliated with MS-13 and Surenos-13, two of the most notorious gangs with largely Hispanic immigrant memberships.

* Nearly 60 percent of alien gangsters arrested by ICE were Mexican citizens, 17 percent were from El Salvador, and 5 percent were from Honduras.

* Immigrant gang members rarely make a living as gangsters. They typically work by day in construction, auto repair, farming, landscaping, and other low-skill occupations where employers are less vigilant checking status, often using false documents.

* Immigration law provides powerful investigative authorities not routinely available to local or even other federal law enforcement agencies (LEAs) that can be essential to disrupting gang activity and prosecuting organized gang crime. Many local LEAs, especially in areas with relatively new influxes of immigrant gangs, are not aware of these tools.

* The research found no “chilling effect” on the reporting of crime as a result of local law enforcement partnerships with ICE. Instead of spreading this misconception, immigrant community leaders should help reinforce the message that crime victims and witnesses are not targets of immigration law enforcement.

* Immigration law provides special measures to encourage cooperation of witnesses and informants, and to protect victims of crime. These incentives are more effective in eliciting cooperation from immigrants than sanctuary or non-cooperation policies.

* Programs aimed only at removing incarcerated aliens, while helpful, are not as effective in addressing criminal immigrant gang activity as investigative programs such as Community Shield, or other locally-driven strategies. State and local governments should adopt certain proven laws and policies to help compensate for ICE resource and staff limitations. These can include implementing routine electronic immigration status screening, basic immigration law training, obtaining delegation of authority, and especially applying strong state and local laws to address immigration-related crime problems.

[Editor’s Note: Read the entire study on-line here. Or read or download the study as a PDF document here.]

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