Retired Episcopal priest from England fears deportation over mistakenly voting in US election

September 21, 2018

[Episcopal News Service] A retired Episcopal priest in southern Illinois is facing possible deportation back to his native England after he says he mistakenly voted in 2006 because he wasn’t aware at the time that only U.S. citizens could participate in federal elections.

That 12-year-old mistake came back to haunt the Rev. David Boase recently when it was discovered by federal authorities reviewing his application for U.S. citizenship. Now, instead of taking steps toward becoming an American, he faces an immigration hearing Sept. 28 in Kansas City, Missouri, where he plans to ask the judge to allow him to return to England voluntarily in lieu of deportation.

“My life is here,” Boase, 69, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He served for a decade, from 2004 until his retirement in 2014, at the Episcopal Parish of Alton, Illinois.

The choice to move back to England is a tough one, but it could allow him more flexibility in the future. He fears a deportation on his record would hurt his chances of returning to his adopted country.

Friends and parishioners have rallied behind Boase, including by setting up a GoFundMe page to help pay for his legal bills and moving costs. They also are asking for lawmakers to join in support of Boase’s cause.

“For 14 years, David has been there for us — at baptisms and funerals and weddings, on Sunday morning and in the middle of the night. Your prayers and your support are what he needs now,” the fundraising webpage pleads. By this week, it had topped its goal of raising $5,000.

The root of Boase’s dilemma was not an election but a driver’s license. News reports and the fundraising page indicate he applied for a license in 2005, and a licensing employee asked if he also wanted to register to vote. Boase said he was surprised but went ahead and signed the voter form. He said he proceeded to vote, just once, in the 2006 election.

After learning of his error from a parishioner, he never voted again, Boase told the Alton Telegraph.

However innocent Boase’s mistake, he isn’t expecting to be allowed to stay in the United States but hopes he is able to leave voluntarily and return someday.

“It is going to wreck my life. I am so happy here, in the parish, in the community and the area. It is a mess,” he told the Telegraph. “I want to come back to America, the land and places I love.”

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at [email protected].

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