FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – She was a legal resident of Tarrant County when she voted in several elections, but Rosa Maria Ortega was not a U.S. citizen. The then 37-year-old was charged with voter fraud and after fighting the case was eventually sentenced to eight years in prison.
After spending more than nine months behind bars, Ortega was granted parole late last year, USA Today reports. Now the 40-year-old mother of four teenagers faces deportation back to her native country of Mexico.
Ortega, who was a resident of Grand Prairie, when she was convicted, has always maintained she didn’t realize her immigration status meant she was ineligible to vote. Having come to this country as a baby and living her entire life in America legally, Ortega cast a ballot five times between 2005 and 2014 mistakenly thinking her green card gave her the right to vote.
Prosecutors said Ortega tried to register to vote in Tarrant County, but after admitting she was not a citizen the elections office rejected her application. They say the investigation into her actions was sparked when she told them she had already been voting in Dallas County.
Ortega is now free on bond, but after being released on parole she spent more than a month in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody.
In 2017 Ortega’s then-attorney, Clark Birdsall, told CBS 11 News he expected his client would be deported upon her release and that would lead to more hard decisions. “Once she gets out of prison and she’s deported, does she bring her four minor children to Mexico? As a mother I think that would be a difficult choice for her.”
Ortega, who was found guilty on two counts of felony illegal voting, has been free on bond since January. No word on when she is next scheduled to be in court.