Texas officials plan to join a growing number of states across the country seeking access to a massive immigration database to check voter rolls for possible non-citizens, officials confirmed Wednesday. Texas Secretary of State officials were drafting a letter Wednesday formally requesting access to the Department of Homeland Security database, which contains more than 100 million immigration records, said Rich Parsons, an agency spokesman. Texas Secretary of State Esperanza “Hope” Andrade, an appointee of Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry, is the latest GOP elections leader to request access to the database since Homeland Security officials last week granted Florida permission to use the database. The Obama administration initially opposed granting Florida access, but relented after a judge ruled in the state’s favor on a separate issue related to its efforts to purge non-citizens from its voting rolls. Since then, election leaders in nearly a dozen states have expressed interest in gaining access to the DHS database. But opponents of the move argue the database was never designed to be used as tool to purge voter rolls.
The Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements Program, also known as “SAVE”, traditionally has been used by federal, state and local agencies that issue benefits and licenses to determine the immigration status of applicants. “We think this will address a problem that doesn’t really exist and will create confusion about a supposed or alleged fraud that – if it happens at all – is so miniscule that it has no impact,” said Carlos Duarte, the Texas Director of Mi Familia Vota, an advocacy organization. “This is happening so close to the election that the actual effect is going to be disenfranchising people who otherwise should be eligible to vote.”
Parsons said the Secretary of State had no estimate of the number of potential non-citizens on the state’s voting rolls. He added that the state plans to start using the database “as quickly as possible,” but did not have a time line and could not say if it will begin the checks before the November election.