President Barack Obama encouraged Latino voters to get out and vote during an interview with actress Gina Rodriguez last week. His answer to one of Rodriguez’s questions, however, has some pundits saying the president gave illegal immigrants the green light to head to the polls.
“Many of the millennials, DREAMers, undocumented citizens — and I call them citizens ‘cause they are contributing to this country — are fearful of voting,” Rodriguez said during the interview, which appeared at MiTú. “So if I vote, will immigration know where I live? Will they come for my family and deport us?”
Obama’s response, according to critics, appeared to gloss over the fact that it is illegal for non-citizens to vote in U.S. elections. His answer instead focused on ameliorating concerns about immigration enforcement during elections.
“Not true,” he said. “And the reason is, first of all when you vote, you are a citizen yourself and there is not a situation where the voting rolls are somehow transferred over and people start investigating, etc. The sanctity of the vote is strictly confidential in terms of who you voted for. If you have a family member who maybe is undocumented, then you have an even greater reason to vote.”
Obama argued that this election, Republicans have tried to foment fear to keep people from voting.
While the president did not explicitly condone illegal immigrants voting, some say he tacitly encouraged illegal immigrants to do just that.
“In other words he is advocating for an illegal act here — that you are not a citizen of the United States, whatever your sympathies or preferences — you are not yet a citizen of the United States,” Fox Business anchor Neil Cavuto said on his show Saturday afternoon in reaction to the interview.
“So somehow got away, getting your derriere into a voting booth and voting when you shouldn’t have,” he continued. “And now you have the man who protects our Constitution, a higher figure than anyone else in this country, saying, ‘Don’t worry, we’re not going to chase you down,’ as you’re doing this illegal act.”
“It sounded to me like he was encouraging it. You know, give it a go,” former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer added in the same segment on Fox Business.
Stuart Varney, another Fox Business anchor, asked, “What is going on here? That young lady says they are citizen because they contribute to society. Really? And the president did not say, ‘hey, you can’t vote if you’re illegal or undocumented.’ He didn’t say it. I shall calm down.”