When I read about Beth
Keathley and her immigration problem
how much political
correctness has over taken common sense.
Beth Keathley of
Bloomington, Illinois, was so close to becoming a
permanent U.S. citizen that she already enjoyed some
of the benefits; she got a Social Security number
and an official state identification card. As far as
she could tell citizenship would not be far behind.
But she made a mistake - one that trips up hundreds
of immigrants each year.
Keathley, who has lived
in the U.S. on a marriage visa since 2003, was not a
citizen when she went to get her state ID card.
probably should have brought a lawyer with her.
While in the government office
getting the ID card she
ended up registering to vote. The voter
registration form shows she checked a box indicating
she was a citizen. She said she does not
specifically remember checking that box, though she
obviously did. Yet I could understand the confusion.
Keathley had her Social Security numberand
her appointment with immigration,
so when someone from the government
offered her the chance to vote, why would she think
it's illegal to do it?
When she told an
immigration officer about it, she was charged with
breaking the law and she lost her job. Her mistake
could also derail her citizenship, and unless a
judge rules in her favor, she could eventually be
deported -- uprooting a family that includes her
9-month-old daughter, Sheina.
Keathley had no idea
that what she did was illegal. In fact, on the day
the Filipino immigrant took part in her first U.S.
election last year, she proudly sported an "I voted"
lapel pin on her uniform when she showed up for her
What bothers me about
what happened is that Keathley's alleged crime took
place at the secretary of state's facility in
Bloomington. In what can only be called a very bad
case of political correctness, state employees are
prohibited by federal law from seeking confirmation
of citizenship before registering people to vote, so
a clerk invited Keathley to register to vote as part
of the "motor voter" program. Keathley said the
clerk saw her Filipino passport as part of the
application for the state identification card.
She figured that if a
state employee offered her the opportunity to
register, it must be all right.
Before the National
Voter Registration Act of 1993, also known as the
"motor voter" law, registration took place before a
sworn elections official, usually inside a local
election board office or voting precinct -- places
hard to find for even native-born citizens.
Today, in addition to
voter registration materials being available at
driver's license facilities and other public
agencies, you can literally be registered while
walking down the street - since there are volunteers
with clipboards full of mail-in forms meant to boost
Many immigrants, like
Keathley, fall into this trap. The person
registering them to vote doesn't ask them if they
are citizens or tell them they can't register if
they are not and they end up breaking the law.
Others are confused, and leave the question
unanswered and still receive voter registration
The Keathleys' attorney,
Richard Hanus, contends that federal immigration law
doesn't consider the possibility that such actions
are done by mistake. He hopes to convince a judge
that Keathley is of good moral character.
"We're talking about a
family unit with a child and a woman with no
previous criminal behavior whatsoever who has
followed immigration laws to the T," Hanus said.
"What took place is, at worst, an innocent mistake
and not an act that was done in any malicious way."
Keathley is filled with
regret for her actions.
"I think about how this
affects us financially and how we have a baby. I'm
losing my job, and we don't have enough to eat," she
confided, during a moment when her husband was out
of the room. "John (her husband) says, 'Just don't
think about it.'
Personally, I am stymied
by the fact that we have laws that forbid those who
register people to vote from questioning their
eligibility to do so. I think that
Beth Keathley's should be a message that this
country, in all fairness, has to rethink its
and immigration laws and base them
more on common sense than political correctness.