Dēmos, the racial justice organization where I serve as the legal director, partnered with the Texas Civil Rights Project, the ACLU, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law to take Texas to court over this egregious voter purge program. Representing a naturalized citizen named Nivien Saleh, the youth grassroots organization MOVE Texas, the Latino civic participation group Jolt Initiative, and the League of Women Voters of Texas, we alleged that Texas was engaging in discriminatory and unconstitutional voter suppression. The lawsuit demonstrated that Whitley’s plan targeted naturalized citizens; according to Census data 87 percent of those people are black, Latino, or Asian. The program used anti-immigrant hysteria and a lie about voter fraud to try to sap communities of color of their political power.
In late February, a federal court ordered Texas to stop the purge. Ruling in our case and two related cases, U.S. District Judge Fred Biery Jr. concluded that “perfectly legal naturalized Americans were burdened with what the Court finds to be ham-handed and threatening correspondence from the state,” which “exemplifies the power of government to strike fear and anxiety and to intimidate the least powerful among us.” In April, Texas agreed to shut down the discriminatory program, inform voters that their rights were no longer at risk, and cover a portion ($450,000) of the plaintiffs’ attorneys fees.