A Salvadoran national, who Texas prosecutors say has been living illegally in the state since the 1980s, was indicted by a federal grand jury for alleged voter fraud and other immigration violations.
On Friday, Joseph Brown, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas, announced that Mario Obdulio Orellana, 57, was named in a five-count indictment earlier in June. The feds charged him with two counts of false representation of U.S. citizenship, giving a false statement in a passport application, the unauthorized use of a Social Security number, and voter fraud.
Orellana allegedly entered the U.S. illegally from El Salvador in the early 1980s, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. In 1987, while illegally residing in Shelby County, Texas, Orellana purportedly falsified documents to obtain a birth certificate that showed he was born in the United States. He then applied for and received a U.S. passport and a Social Security number. Prosecutors said Orellana also claimed to be a U.S. citizen when registering to vote and cast a fraudulent ballot in the November 2016 presidential election.
Orellana made an initial appearance in federal court on Thursday. His sentencing will be set after the completion of a pre-sentence investigation by the U.S. Probation Office. He faces up to a maximum of 10 years in federal prison.
The issue of voter fraud, including illegal voting by noncitizens, remains a growing concern in the Lone Star State. Last year, Texas tried Rosa Maria Ortega, a Mexican national, for voting illegally in elections over a decade. She falsely claimed U.S. citizenship and voted as a Republican at least five times in Dallas County. This included the November 2012 general election and a May 2014 primary run-off. During her trial, Ortega said she thought she was an American citizen when she was only a U.S. legal permanent resident, which rendered her ineligible to vote. A judge sentenced her to eight years in prison for “illegal voting” under Texas law.
In 2018, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said his office will prosecute Laura Janeth Garza, a Mexican national indicted by a Montgomery County grand jury on two counts of election fraud for illegally voting in 2016, 2012, and 2004. Garza purportedly stole the identity of a U.S. citizen who resides in Texas. The suspect secured a U.S. passport and registered to vote in Harris County. This situation surfaced when the alleged victim applied for her own passport.
In March, the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), a national election integrity law firm, filed a lawsuit against Harris County for allegedly failing to disclose noncitizen voter records as required by the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993, also known as the “Motor Voter” law. Breitbart Texas reported Paxton urged a state court judge in a separate lawsuit to facilitate the PILF’s request after Harris County sued over a ruling that noncitizen records should not be disclosed–contrary to the Attorney General’s published opinion on the matter.
The organization took to Twitter to comment on the Obdulio Orellana case, arguing that it’s another example for why states should implement “citizenship verification” in the voter registration system.
Mario Obdulio Orellana #voterfraud case: It’s not unheard of for illegal immigrants (and their smugglers) to allegedly use the voter registration system as a tool to obtain legal documents for fraudulent purposes. Yet another reason we need citizenship verification in voting.
— PublicInterestLegal (@PILFoundation) June 25, 2018
In April, state Senator Don Huffines (R-Dallas) wrote to Dallas County election officials questioning if they complied with state law and election codes that call for “monthly compilation of a list of noncitizens registered to vote” and the purging of these illegal voters from the rolls.
Breitbart Texas reported:
The letter also referenced a four-county survey conducted by the Office of the Attorney General, revealing 165 “unlawfully registered noncitizen voters” were removed from the voter rolls but prior to identifying themselves as noncitizens at jury duty, this group of 165 cast 100 illegal votes in Texas elections.
More recently, Texas AG Ken Paxton noted “the process for removing ineligible voters who self-report as noncitizens at jury duty is not being followed correctly, or even at all in various counties.”
Huffines pledged to file legislation that verifies the citizenship of “every single applicant who registers to vote” when the state legislature convenes in 2019.
Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter.