The day Margarita Del Pilar Fitzpatrick applied for an Illinois driver’s license upended her life. When a clerk offered to register her to vote in 2005, the Peruvian citizen mistakenly accepted, leading to long legal battles and eventually deportation.
A decade and a half later, she struggles to find work at 52, is nearly homeless and hasn’t seen two of her three American citizen daughters in years because of a secretary of state’s office mishap.
“It has derailed our lives,” she said in a phone interview from Lima. “Immigrants should not be put in this situation.”
A handful of other immigrants could face a similar fate, or criminal charges, after a mistake in Illinois’ automatic voter registration system allowed of hundreds of people who identified themselves as non-U.S. citizens to register. Sixteen cast ballots.
The fiasco in a state with a reputation for election shenanigans triggered a partisan battle, infuriated voter advocacy groups and left immigrant rights activists doing damage control.