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Lopez Disputes Nature of Some Seized Files

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A top official with Hermandad Mexicana Nacional in Orange County said Saturday that more than 400 case files seized from its Santa Ana headquarters last month do not necessarily all pertain to those in the process of becoming citizens.

Nativo V. Lopez, the executive director of Hermandad in Santa Ana, made the remarks as he and 150 others demonstrated in front of The Times Orange County office to protest its coverage of a voter fraud investigation that focuses on the Latino rights group. Another 100 demonstrated in front of The Times’ Los Angeles headquarters.

The newspaper reported Saturday that the files of 434 immigrants seized by district attorney’s investigators are described by Hermandad officials in court records and interviews as those that are in the process of applying for citizenship.

The Times cross-checked those names against county voter records and determined that 374 match the names of people who registered to vote. Of those who registered, 220 cast ballots in the Nov. 5 election. State law prohibits noncitizens from both voting and registering to vote.

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Hermandad’s operations director and its attorney said in separate interviews that all, or nearly all, of the immigrants identified in the court records are people who have not yet completed the citizenship process. In later interviews, however, they said they weren’t sure of the applicants’ exact citizenship status.

Lopez said Saturday that the seized files represent an array of their clients’ cases, including housing issues and work-related claims.

“There’s no way for us to ascertain of these 400 files that they took . . . what type of legal cases” they are, Lopez said. And even if the files contained citizenship information, that does not mean those people were not legal citizens by the time they registered to vote, he added.

“We need [those files] back to serve our membership,” Lopez said.

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In a motion filed Jan. 22 in Orange County Superior Court, Hermandad sought the return of the files, other documents and computers seized in the raid. No date has been set to hear the motion.


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