Donald Trump
Former President Donald Trump rallies for the upcoming Iowa Caucus. Tannen Maury/AFP

NEW YORK CITY - Tensions are high among Republican candidates amid the upcoming Iowa Caucus on Monday. The latest in this saga as candidates make their last efforts to pull in support in the state? Voter fraud.

In a final stretch of campaigning before the big event, former president Donald Trump suggested that Democrats are encouraging the flow of migrants into the country as a strategy to register them to vote blue in the 2024 election.

"I think they really are doing it because they want to sign these people up to vote. I really do," Trump said at a rally in Mason City, Iowa. "They can't speak a word of English for the most part, but they're signing them up."

The unsupported claim, which is not new in Trump's campaign, seeks to resonate with parts of the Republican electorate who believe there is a lack of security in the polls and the voters. Experts also believe this can give traction to extremist ideologies such as the "great replacement theory," which, simply put, is a conspiracy theory that says there's a plot to diminish the influence of white people.

Trump is not the only one alluding to such claims. Billionaire Elon Musk also has pushed the narrative on his social media platform X (previously Twitter), claiming that Democrats are "importing voters."

Claims such as this one have already been disproved. Under the law, only citizens can vote in federal elections. There is yet to be proof— from Trump's team or any experts— that non-citizen migrants are casting their vote, or that Democrats are encouraging them to do so.

In fact, illegal voting of this nature remains exceedingly rare. For instance, a Georgia audit of its voter rolls in 2022 found fewer than 2,000 cases of noncitizens attempting to register to vote. None were successful. Meanwhile, millions of new Georgia voters registered during that same period.

Illegal voting is heavily scrutinized. Anyone registering to vote in the U.S. must attest under penalty of perjury that they are a U.S. citizen. Lying is punishable by fines, imprisonment and deportation, steep penalties that few people are willing to accept the risk.

On top of that, federal law requires states to regularly maintain their voter rolls and remove anyone ineligible, a process that identifies immigrants living in the country illegally.

"The Latino and immigrant communities know the law," The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles said in a statement. The organization encourages voter participation among Latinos, but hasn't found evidence of noncitizens voting in its decades of advocacy work.

Although citizen voting is illegal, potential voters are not required to show citizenship proof when casting their ballots. Some states and federal lawmakers have sought to require documentary proof of citizenship when they register, but these efforts have been challenged by advocates and blocked by federal courts for the burden they impose on voters.

Some advocacy groups, such as The Brennan Center for Justice, say proof-of-citizenship requirements disenfranchise people when many eligible voters don't have birth certificates or other applicable documents at hand. They say providing citizenship proof is a burden, especially when no research has shown that noncitizens are voting in significant numbers.

Claims of this nature come amid increased border crossings in the past year. Millions in the U.S. are seeking asylum or entering on parole, a legal authority granted for humanitarian reasons.

U.S. authorities made around 5.9 million arrests for illegal crossings from Mexico between 202 and 2023. A lot of these migrants are released to seek asylum in immigration courts, which are backlogged with 3 million cases that take years to decide. While these migrants may be eligible to work, they cannot vote.

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