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Senatorial candidate J.D. Vance speaks at a rally in Mason, Ohio. (AP) Senatorial candidate J.D. Vance speaks at a rally in Mason, Ohio. (AP)

Senatorial candidate J.D. Vance speaks at a rally in Mason, Ohio. (AP)

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman April 8, 2022

JD Vance’s ad about ‘open border’ and immigrant voters is wrong

If Your Time is short

  • There is not an "open border" between Mexico and the U.S. In fiscal year 2021, which began when Trump was still president in October 2020, there were a record 1.7 million encounters at the southwest border. More than 1 million were expelled. 

  • Immigrants who cross the border illegally cannot vote in federal elections. For immigrants who become citizens and therefore gain the right to vote, that’s a process that can take a decade or longer.

Ohio Republican Senate candidate J.D. Vance is hitting President Joe Biden over border policies in an ad that suggests immigrants who illegally cross the border are boosting the Democratic Party.

"Are you a racist? Do you hate Mexicans?" Vance asks in a TV ad. "The media calls us racist for wanting to build Trump’s wall. They censor us, but it doesn’t change the truth. Joe Biden’s open border is killing Ohioans with more illegal drugs and more Democrat voters pouring into this country." Vance then cites his mother’s drug addiction from the "poison coming across our border."

Vance’s ad suggests that immigrants are illegally crossing the southern border and then voting. That’s not happening, said two election strategists of opposing parties who have teamed up on the Latino Vote podcast.

"That’s blatantly inaccurate for a whole lot of reasons, the main one being it's just not true," said Mike Madrid, an anti-Trump Republican strategist.

"It makes no sense what he is saying," said Chuck Rocha, a Democrat strategist. "He wants people to think Mexicans are walking across the border and filling out paperwork and they are handed a Democrat voter ID card. That’s the worst stereotype."

We asked Vance’s campaign for evidence and did not receive a response. Vance is competing in a crowded May 3 Republican primary as a result of the planned retirement of Sen. Rob Portman. On the Democratic side, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan is running against consumer protection attorney Morgan Harper. Early voting is underway.

The border is not open

There is not an "open border" between the U.S. and Mexico.

In fiscal year 2021, which began in October 2020 and ended in September, there were 1.7 million encounters at the southwest border, numbers not seen in more than 20 years. More than 1 million of those immigrants were expelled quickly under a public health order called Title 42, which President Donald Trump began using in March 2020 due to COVID-19. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that it will halt the Title 42 order on May 23.

Officials are bracing for as many as 18,000 migrants per day, nearly triple the current pace, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

But once Title 42 is lifted, that doesn’t create an "open border" that would allow anyone to walk across the border and remain in the country legally. Instead, it means that the country returns to how it handled immigrants entering the country illegally before the pandemic, a longer process that includes expedited removals, placing people into long-term removal proceedings, or some migrants leaving voluntarily or going through the asylum process. 

These laws and procedures "are not particular to Joe Biden or the Democrats," said Ron Hayduk, a San Francisco State professor who teaches courses on elections and immigration.

Voting by immigrants in U.S. illegally is rare

Federal law requires citizenship to vote in national elections, and would-be voters sign a form attesting under penalty of perjury that they are citizens when they register to vote. States can check various databases to verify voters’ citizenship status. 

Cases of fraudulent voting by noncitizens do happen occasionally, but they are often the result of misunderstandings or errors. 

Rutgers University professor Lorraine Minnite previously told us that the most common problem she has seen on the issue is noncitizens getting accidentally registered to vote when they go to the Department of Motor Vehicles. But the number of people who fall into this category is "miniscule," she said. Minnite told us that Vance’s comments are a "delusion."

Featured Fact-check

PolitiFact has fact-checked several similar claims from Trump and others — all inaccurate — about immigrants voting illegally in the 2008, 2016 and 2018 elections

We found little evidence of noncitizen voting in 2020 as well. In Ohio, Secretary of State Frank LaRose in February referred about 62 cases of potential voter fraud to prosecutors, including about three dozen related to potential noncitizens either registering to vote or casting ballots. Those cases remain under investigation, the attorney general said.

In the 2020 general election in Ohio, about 5.9 million ballots were cast. LaRose, a Republican, said in 2021 that voter fraud is "exceedingly rare."

In North Carolina in 2020, federal prosecutors charged 19 individuals with voter fraud after casting ballots in 2016 or 2018 elections. Sixteen pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanors related to voting as a noncitizen. Three cases were dismissed. 

Voting by noncitizens carries high risks – they may face deportation or incarceration, or it may thwart their efforts when applying for naturalization.

It’s a long path for immigrants to gain the right to vote

The process of becoming a citizen — and therefore earning the right to register to vote — can take a decade or longer.

"Even if many of these people found a path to legal status via asylum or other means, it would be many, many years before they would become eligible to vote given both the huge backlogs in adjudicating cases in immigration court and the fact that people spend years on a green card before being eligible for citizenship," said Michelle Mittelstadt, spokesperson for the Migration Policy Institute. 

Vance specifically mentioned Mexican immigrants. Nationally, Mexican-Americans comprise about 69% of the Latino electorate and overwhelmingly voted for Biden, Rocha said. The Latino electorate is not monolithic — Cuban Americans lean Republican, unlike non-Cuban American Hispanics.

But it’s "ridiculous" to make assumptions about how immigrants crossing the border now will vote in 20 years if they gain citizenship, Madrid said.

The majority of Latinos voted for Biden in 2020; however, Trump increased his share compared with 2016 and made gains in Miami-Dade County and the Rio Grande Valley. Trump took 38% of the Hispanic vote in 2020, compared to 28% in 2016, according to the Pew Research Center. 

Our ruling 

Vance said that  "Joe Biden’s open border" means that there are "more Democrat voters pouring into this country." 

The border is not open. The majority of immigrants encountered by border agents have been expelled recently by the use of a public health order put in place by Trump. Even when that order, Title 42, is lifted in May, that won’t create an "open" border — the federal government will respond to immigrants arriving in the U.S. illegally using its laws and decades-old processes that include removal, court hearings and, for those who are eligible, the asylum process.

Vance’s ad creates an impression that immigrants are crossing the Mexican border illegally and then turning into Democrat voters. That’s wrong. Only U.S. citizens can vote in federal elections, and proven incidents of noncitizens casting ballots are rare. Even migrants who cross the border now and go through the process of gaining citizenship won’t be able to vote for over a decade or longer. 

We rate this statement False. 

RELATED: No evidence for viral claim that ‘22 million illegal aliens’ are ‘voting illegally’

RELATED: All of our fact-checks in the Ohio Senate race

RELATED: The race for the Ohio U.S. Senate seat: A guide

Our Sources

J.D. Vance for Senate, TV ad, April 5, 2022

Customs and Border Protection, Southwest Land Border Encounters, 2022

Washington Post, Opinion: Latinos are not a lock for Democrats. Here’s why. Aug. 5, 2021

Pew Research Center, Behind Biden’s 2020 Victory, June 30, 2021

Pew Research Center, The changing racial and ethnic composition of the U.S. electorate, Sept. 23, 2020

Pew Research Center, Most Cuban American voters identify as Republican in 2020, Oct. 2, 2020

Gabriel Sanchez for Brookings, Immigration and the Latino vote: A golden opportunity for Democrats in 2022, June 17, 2021

WOSU, Immigration, false election claims get the spotlight in GOP U.S. Senate debate, March 29, 2022

Apple Podcasts, Latino Vote Podcast, 2022

Migration Policy Institute, Controversial U.S. Title 42 Expulsions Policy Is Coming to an End, Bringing New Border Challenges, March 31, 2022

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC Public Health Determination and Termination of Title 42 Order, April 1, 2022

Ohio Latino Affairs Commission, 2020 Election Participation in Ohio: A Focus on Hispanic/Latino Voters, 2021

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Press release, Feb. 1, 2022

PolitiFact, "Pence falsely says if HR 1 passes, millions of people in US illegally will be registered to vote," March 5, 2021

PolitiFact, "Do states verify citizenship of voters in federal elections?" Dec. 7, 2020

PolitiFact, "Fact-checking Trump's claim on cost of illegal immigration, number of immigrants here illegally," Jan. 28, 2019

PolitiFact, "No evidence ‘many’ illegal immigrants voted in midterm elections, as Lou Dobbs said," Nov. 16, 2018

PolitiFact, "Donald Trump Jr. tweets misleading 2012 headline about Florida noncitizen voters," Nov. 13, 2018

PolitiFact, "Donald Trump says there's 'substantial evidence of voter fraud.' There isn't," Jan. 5, 2018

PolitiFact, "Following Trump voter fraud allegations, claim that 5.7 million noncitizens voted is wrong," June 22, 2017

PolitiFact, "Fact-check: Did 3 million undocumented immigrants vote in this year's election?" Nov. 18, 2016

PolitiFact, "Donald Trump's Pants on Fire claim that millions of illegal votes cost him popular vote victory," Nov. 18, 2016

PolitiFact, "Trump wrongfully says immigrants voting illegally won North Carolina for Obama in 2008," Oct. 19, 2016

PolitiFact, "Donald Trump repeats Pants on Fire claim about '30 million' illegal immigrants," Sept. 1, 2016

Telephone interview, Mike Madrid, Republican strategist, April 5, 2022

Telephone interview, Chuck Rocha, Democrat strategist, April 5, 2022

Telephone interview, Ron Hayduk, San Francisco State University professor, April 5, 2022

Email interview,  Michelle Mittelstadt, spokesperson for the Migration Policy Institute, April 5, 2022 

Email interview, Lorraine Minnite, Rutgers University associate professor of public policy, April 6, 2022


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