Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer-prize winning reporter for the Washington Post, "outed" himself today as an undocumented immigrant in a self-authored New York Times Magazine piece detailing his experience as a young Filipino immigrant working hard to achieve the American dream. It wasn't until Vargas attempted to obtain a learner's permit at his local California DMV that he learned the citizenship documentation he had been provided by his naturalized grandparents was fake.
I decided then that I could never give anyone reason to doubt I was an American. I convinced myself that if I worked enough, if I achieved enough, I would be rewarded with citizenship. I felt I could earn it.
I've tried. Over the past 14 years, I've graduated from high school and college and built a career as a journalist, interviewing some of the most famous people in the country. On the surface, I've created a good life. I've lived the American dream.
But I am still an undocumented immigrant.
Predictably, it took almost no time for the right-wing slander machine to gear up its attacks on Vargas and his family.
First up, National Review's Daniel Foster accused Vargas of "fraudulent tax fraud," in a piece posted today:
Vargas entered the country illegally after his grandfather paid a coyote $4,500 to smuggle him in. The grandfather then obtained a fake passport and green card for Vargas, which they used to acquire a valid Social Security card. But that card, which subjected Vargas' right to work to the approval of the then-INS, was illegally doctored, allowing Vargas to secure job after job for more than a decade by showing nothing more than a photocopy of a fake document.
The first part of Vargas' story -- a kid living and loving America for years before his shocking discovery that he has been made complicit in a crime -- does indeed elicit sympathy. It's stories like these that make me open, at least in principle, to something like a narrowly-tailored version of the "DREAM" Act. But the second part of his story, in which a fear- and shame-driven Vargas, with the aid of his family, perpetuated and compounded those crimes (Vargas eventually got around to what you might redundantly call fraudulent tax fraud, repeatedly reporting himself as a citizen rather than a "permanent resident", when in fact he was neither), elicits from me nothing like the outpouring of support Vargas is already enjoying on the Left.
Neither the Drudge Report nor Fox Nation shied away from using the slur "illegal" to frame Vargas' story. From Wednesday's Drudge Report:
And from Fox Nation:
Business Insider took this opportunity to ask, "So, anti-immigration folks, what do you think? Should he be deported?"
At The Blaze, Meredith Jessup was "offended on a professional level" by Vargas. She wrote:
On the surface, Vargas is not unlike any other illegal immigrant living in America today, ducking respect for our nation's laws in order to pursue personal ambitions.
Don Surber of Daily Mail, ratcheted up the rhetoric, callling for kicking "the lying, illegal alien Jose Antonio Vargas out" of the U.S.:
No, this is not his country.
He did not come here legally.
He lied to stay here.
He lied to get in the White House.
Not only should he be prosecuted, but his bosses as well because they should have checked his citizenship,
Liberals can pretend they have a perfect example of someone to symbolize this cause but actually he is an example of why we need to protect our borders.
The right-wing media have never hesitated to follow Fox's hateful example in smearing individuals and issues. The case of Mr. Vargas is yet another example of the right following the Fox News lead. What will it take for the conservative media to acknowledge that immigrants like Mr. Vargas are exactly the reason we must engage in a mature, respectful conversation about the state of immigration and the lives of immigrants in America.