Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump suggested on Friday that border agents are intentionally letting illegal immigrants into the country so they can thwart him in the polls come November.
At an immigration roundtable, Art Del Cueto, a vice president for the National Border Patrol Council union, told Mr. Trump that officials are glossing over immigrants’ criminal histories and accelerating citizenship applications. “They are letting people pour into the country so they can go ahead and vote,” the candidate responded.
Throughout the election campaign, Trump has expressed concern that the election will be rigged. Several lawmakers have called for US Citizenship and Immigration Services to address the recent claims of improper practice, which a spokesman for the NBPC said were the result of confusion.
Shawn Moran told the Associated Press that border agents have seen more people attempting to cross the border into the United States illegally, but did not indicate that agents are being any more lenient.
Only US citizens can vote in federal elections. US Citizenship and Immigration Services, not Border Patrol, is responsible for the process, and there is currently no evidence that the agency is accelerating the approval of citizenship applications.
The citizenship process is a lengthy one. Applicants must have been resident in the United States for at least five years, and been physically present in the US for half that time. Citizenship is only granted to those who are already legal permanent residents. Another requirement is a naturalization test, which calls for a knowledge of US history, government, and civics.
Applicants must read, write, and speak basic English, as well as be prepared to pledge their allegiance to the United States.
The system, however, is not without flaws.
In September, the US government mistakenly granted citizenship to at least 858 immigrants who had pending deportation orders. While some of the individuals may have qualified for citizenship, others received their papers in error. Discrepancies in the applications were not caught because their fingerprints were on paper records and not searchable electronically. The mix-up may have intensified concerns about immigrants perpetrating fraud.
Fraud has been a persistent concern for the Trump campaign. Trump has described the elections as “rigged,” and called on his supporters to help address this by signing up to help observe elections. Conservatives have also pushed for voter ID laws that they say will combat fraud – though voting rights advocates say they are more likely to depress turnout among legitimate voters.
Many analysts, however, say fraud is far from prevalent. Even in an extreme case recently reported in Colorado, fraud accounted for less than 0.01 percent of all votes cast. That kind of number is too small to have a realistic impact in virtually all cases, Donathan Brown, associate professor and chair of the Diversity Scholars Program at Ithaca College, told The Christian Science Monitor in September.
"I do not think this weakens any case set forth by Democrats or strengthens any case by Republicans, but instead should bring both parties together to discuss process and procedures regarding voter rolls," Professor Brown concluded.
This report contains material from the Associated Press.