MALDEF's (ig)noble cause

Published on March 15th, 2012

The Mexican American Legal Defense Education Fund (MALDEF) touts their mission as an organization that "strives to implement programs that are structured to bring Latinos into the mainstream of American political and socioeconomic life; providing better educational opportunities; encouraging participation in all aspects of society; and offering a positive vision for the future. Unique to MALDEF is an approach that combines advocacy, educational outreach, and litigation strategies to achieve socioeconomic change."  They tout as one of their most significant achievements the legal victory of "the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, Plyler v. Doe. The Court struck down a Texas law that allowed districts to charge tuition to children of undocumented immigrant parents. MALDEF’s victory opened school doors to all students equally." Their latest tactic "to bring Latinos into the mainstream" is to seek to overturn Arizona's Proposition 200.

Prior to the passage of Proposition 200, it was only necessary to sign a statement, under penalty of law, that the applicant is a US citizen.  On election day, the voter only needed to state their name and address to the registrar in order to receive a ballot.  Identification was not required to either register to vote or actually vote on election day.   With the passage of Proposition 200, residents are required to show proof of citizenship to register to vote and proof of identification to vote in person on election day (e.g., drivers license, passport, utility bill, etc.).  56% of Arizona voters agreed.

MALDEF instead saw the Proposition as Arizona's opportunity to disenfranchise Latino voters.  So, MALDEF filed a lawsuit on behalf of individual and organizational plaintiffs who sought to reverse the law.  This would have been a noble goal had the disenfranchisement been true.  The plaintiffs & MALDEF, by the lawsuit's own admission, filed a frivolous case, take a look:

  • Jesus Gonzalez a naturalized US citizen.  One of the pieces of identification to verify citizenship and, hence, can be used as proof of citizenship to vote is a US passport.  Mr. Gonzalez "purchased the passport to travel to and from Mexico, rather than to register to vote."
  • Georgia Morrison-Flores is a natural born citizen who failed to complete and submit the required paperwork to change from her maiden name to her married name.  The information on the voter rolls did not reflect her married name.  "Once she [updates her information], she has the proof of identification required to vote in person on election day."
  • Debra Lopez is registered to vote and possesses the necessary documentation to vote.  However, as a voter registrar she does not want to incur personal expenditures to accommodate Proposition 200.  "She did not identify any particular individuals who cannot register due to Proposition 200."
  • Chicanos Por La Causa (CPLC) joined the lawsuit because they would incur additional copying and administrative costs due to Proposition 200. CPLC "encountered only two people who wished to register, but did not have the requisite proof of citizenship on their person…[CPLC] instructed the first person to go home and return with the documents..the person did not return.  Martinez drove the second person home to obtain the documents because that person did not have transportation…one of these persons was Latino."
  • Valle Del Sol (Valle) joined because Proposition 200 has had "not a huge impact but an impact."  Valle officials stated that they incurred additional costs due to Proposition 200, "but did not provide any supporting documentation at trial."
  • ITCA headed by Representative Steve Gallardo complains that "as a candidate, if he wants his constituents to vote for him, he needs to notify them about acceptable forms of identification…He is not aware, however, of any specific person who has been unable to register to vote or that would vote for him but cannot because of Proposition 200."
  • Inter Tribal Council of Arizona (ITC) works to promote American Indian voting rights and provides voter education programs for tribe members.  The Executive Director stated that members were less likely to possess birth certificates due to various factors.  The Executive Director stated, "that neither he nor ITC was aware of any tribal member who lacked satisfactory evidence of citizenship to vote."
  • Arizona Advocacy Network (AzAN) is a voter registration organization that complained of the additional costs that may be incurred due to Prop 200.  Since "Proposition 200's implementation [the organization] encountered four people that were unable to register because they lacked proof of citizenship on their person."
  • League of Women Voters (League) determined "it would not take responsibility for peoples' drivers license number or making photocopies of other identification documents."

Each of the statements in quotes is taken from the lawsuit itself.  The plaintiffs simply did not desire to adhere to Proposition 200's regulations or did not provide proof of their grievance.  One of the most sacred privileges Americans possess is the right to select their leadership.  This privilege should be reserved for those who understand the gravity of voting and the need to ensure the right is preserved for citizens of the US.  MALDEF seeks to trivialize the magnitude and importance of voting by filing frivolous lawsuits in court on behalf of those with no grievance.  MALDEF's mission to "bring Latinos into the mainstream" consists of cheapening the voting privileges of legal immigrants and natural born Americans.

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