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Boardman writes: "Scapegoating minorities is useful in building a police state."

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent. (photo: AP)
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent. (photo: AP)

Republican Cruelty - Just for Immigrants, Disabled, and Gays?

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

15 February 17


Scapegoating minorities is useful in building a police state

osa Maria Ortega, 37, came to the United States as an infant. She has a sixth grade education. When she was about eleven, her mother was arrested and deported. Her two younger brothers, born in the US, became citizens. She became a permanent resident, with a green card. She is a mother of four children, ages 12-16, who are all citizens, and engaged to marry Oscar Sherman, a citizen.

When she lived in Dallas County, she registered to vote on forms that had no box to check for “permanent resident,” only “citizen.” She registered in 2012, as a Republican. She voted for Mitt Romney. She voted again in May 2014. When she moved to Tarrant County, she again registered to vote in October, on a different form, with a box for “non-citizen,” which she checked. That registration was rejected. She explained to election officials that she had voted in Dallas County without difficulty, they said she had to be a citizen. In March 2015 she filed another form claiming to be a citizen. Apparently no one thought to sort the situation out humanely, with someone who didn’t know the difference legally between permanent residency and citizenship.

Instead, in October 2015, she was arrested and charged with “Illegal Voting,” a second degree felony under a Texas law that took effect January 1, 2012. She was indicted in November 2015. According to Rosa Maria Ortega’s attorney, Clark Birdsall, the Texas Attorney General’s office agreed to dismiss all charges if she would agree to testify on voting procedures before the Texas Legislature, but Tarrant County district attorney Sharen Wilson vetoed any deal and demanded a trial to showcase how tough she could be on “election fraud.” The state and county officials refused to comment on this to The New York Times, but a spokesman for Wilson offered a non-denial denial saying any negotiations had been only “discussions.”

On February 8, 2017, after about two hours of deliberation, a jury found Rosa Maria Ortega guilty on two counts, thereby rejecting her testimony that she was confused by and didn’t understand the law. Each count carried a possible sentence of 20 years in prison. The statute requires that the court determine that a person cast an illegal ballot “knowingly.” The following day, the Texas county judge sentenced Rosa Maria Ortega to an eight-year sentence on each count (to run concurrently) and fined her $5000.

The Attorney General, Ken Paxton, was elected in 2014 after years of crusading against “voter fraud.” (He has his own legal issues these days, Texas criminal securities fraud charges and a federal lawsuit, but he denies any wrongdoing, with a trial coming up May 1.) After Rosa Maria Ortega’s sentencing, Ken Paxton was all over the news boasting in an email:

This case shows how serious Texas is about keeping its elections secure, and the outcome sends a message that violators of the state’s election law will be prosecuted to the fullest. Safeguarding the integrity of our elections is essential to preserving our democracy.

Republican governor Greg Abbott, a longtime promoter of fantasy voter fraud, pushed his way into the Rosa Maria Ortega spotlight with a tweet of absurd intensity for a fellow party member:

In Texas you will pay a price for Voter Fraud: Noncitizen Sentenced to 8 Years in prison for Illegal Voting. #txlege

The judge who sentenced Rosa Maria Ortega is also Republican. So is the Attorney General. In 2014, Rosa Maria Ortega voted for him.

Rosa Maria Ortega’s ordeal is a Republican zeitgeist story

Since 2002, some 72 million Texas votes have led to voter fraud prosecution in – wait for it – fewer than 100 cases (in which convictions led to light sentences or probation). But politicians pursuing an imaginary monster tend to inflate any evidence they can find of their particular Big Foot. That’s just Rosa Maria Ortega’s bad luck, that and Republicans’ savage indifference to inflicting needless pain and cruelty.

Texas voter laws have for years illustrated Republican cruelty in pursuit of hobgoblins. Last year the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, by a 9-6 vote, struck down part of the Texas Voter ID law. Considered the country’s most conservative appeals court, it held that the Texas law discriminates against black and Latino citizens. For now, the US Supreme Court has rejected a Texas appeal of the lower court’s ruling. The law would have eliminated 16,400 legal voters from the election. Texas governor Greg Abbott issued a statement at the time:

The 5th Circuit rightly reversed the lower court’s finding of discriminatory purpose, but wrongly concluded the law had a discriminatory effect. Voter fraud is real, and it undermines the integrity of the election process. As Attorney General I prosecuted cases against voter fraud across the State, and Texas will continue to make sure there is no illegal voting at the ballot box.

At about the same time, Abbott also claimed: “The fact is voter fraud is rampant—and in Texas, unlike some other states and unlike some other leaders, we are committed to cracking down on voter fraud.” Politifact called Abbott’s claim a “Pants on Fire” lie. In Texas it’s a crackdown on rampant voter fraud when they judicially lynch an under-educated woman who voted Republican. (In Iowa, the woman charged with voting twice for Trump is, according to her attorney, mentally incompetent to stand trial.)

Rosa Maria Ortega’s attorney Clark Birdsall is outspoken about the injustice of this Texas prosecution and the fatuous Republican self-grandiosity that goes with it:

These people are beating their chests and wrapping themselves up in the flag and trying to impress our current occupier of the White House, and they’re like a big-game hunter, one foot on the carcass, with their gun in their hand and with a big smile on their face.

This is such a miscarriage.

And the taxpayers are going to pay a minimum of $300,000 or $400,000 to house this woman, just so a local politicians can curry favor with Trump, or with Abbott, who is just as out of control.

With mindless immigrant persecution continuing across the country in the current ICE rampage, Rosa Maria Ortega’s story is emblematic of the inhumanity Republicans bring to governing. Whether it’s cruelty to the sick, or cruelty to immigrants, or cruelty to disabled people, or cruelty to the LGBTQ community, it’s always cruelty at the heart of the approach.

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+54 # Moxa 2017-02-15 14:07
Stories like this, which make me want to throw up my hands and say I give up, are the very reason we must never give up. It's hard dealing with remorseless cruelty because one always thinks that by pointing out the cruelty, reason and conscience would dictate a change of behavior. But reason and conscience are not high priorities for Republicans and so you have to go a different route.

The only way this will change is if there is a political party that represents a different way. The lack of this is what enabled Trump to get elected. No point in just reporting the cruelty if there isn't a party willing to truly stand up to it.
+6 # Caliban 2017-02-15 21:39
No matter what one thinks of her foreign policy hawkishness, this kind of domestic misbehavior would have been challenged -- not invited -- by a Clinton Justice Department.
+14 # Adoregon 2017-02-15 22:39
Stories like this, make me want to throw up.
Bullies all.
+17 # elizabethblock 2017-02-15 19:09
I've been an election official at every election for the past twenty years (since the Blue Jays won the World Series). It is my job, and that of my colleagues, to make sure people who aren't eligible to vote don't vote. That includes explaining what qualifies you to vote. So whose fault was this?
+19 # Robbee 2017-02-15 19:35
Republican Cruelty - Just for Immigrants, Disabled, and Gays?

Immigrants, Disabled, and Gays - are just the canaries in the coal mine

when getting rid of them solves nothing, only makes things worse, bring on the next round of scapegoats!
0 # Robbee 2017-02-15 19:47
we need to get over the notion that voting rethuglican is its own punishment - 8 years in prison? - barely enough!
+14 # economagic 2017-02-15 21:17
For all the gratuitous cruelty in the Republican party in general, and in the State of Texas in particular, I see something else going on here. After living in Oklahoma, not exactly a bastion of liberal enlightenment and tolerance, for 40 of my first 54 years, I moved to North Carolina 16 years ago. It took me a while to figure it out, but it seems to me that in the states of the former Confederacy (which includes Texas) a lot of otherwise kind and generous people whose families have lived in the deep South for generations would rather deprive ten deserving persons of their rightful due than to allow one person to get away with the smallest thing he might possibly not have fully earned. And of course that punitive attitude applies in greater degree the farther the alleged miscreant is from the ideal southern gentleman of "pure" European descent, contrary to what they say they believe every Sunday in church. That's pretty harsh, but certainly no harsher than the punishment they inflict. In Texas they kill 'em, pretty much all.
+8 # jwb110 2017-02-15 21:46
Her biggest mistake was voting for Republicans.
+6 # librarian1984 2017-02-16 09:56
Hundreds of restaurants (out of 2200) in WDC are closed today, Thursday, 16 Feb, in support of Life Without Immigrants Day.
+1 # suzyskier 2017-02-18 11:37
Disgusting! So where do these Restaurateurs ancestors hail from originally? What creeps some Americans are. I feel sick.
+6 # dusty 2017-02-16 15:24
I grew up in the Southwest, not texas, and we used to say go east till you smell __it and then turn south till you step in __it and then you will know you are in texas.
-5 # Henry 2017-02-16 16:30
Quoting dusty:
I grew up in the Southwest, not texas, and we used to say go east till you smell __it and then turn south till you step in __it and then you will know you are in texas.

Texas IS the Southwest.
+2 # Jadhu 2017-02-17 22:50
The most vulnerable come first. Then, come the others...

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