Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, recently revealed that he is an undocumented immigrant. Right-wing media responded with virulent anti-immigrant attacks, with Don Surber of the Charleston Daily Mail writing: "kick the lying, illegal alien Jose Antonio Vargas out."
Jose Vargas: "I Am ... An Undocumented Immigrant"
Vargas: "On The Surface ... I've Lived The American Dream. But I Am Still An Undocumented Immigrant." In a New York Times Magazine piece, Vargas recounted his life living as an undocumented immigrant, admitting to "reluctantly, even painfully, doing things I know are wrong and unlawful." From his personal essay titled, "My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant":
My mother wanted to give me a better life, so she sent me thousands of miles away to live with her parents in America -- my grandfather (Lolo in Tagalog) and grandmother (Lola).
One day when I was 16, I rode my bike to the nearby D.M.V. office to get my driver's permit. Some of my friends already had their licenses, so I figured it was time. But when I handed the clerk my green card as proof of U.S. residency, she flipped it around, examining it. "This is fake," she whispered. "Don't come back here again."
Confused and scared, I pedaled home and confronted Lolo.
Lolo was a proud man, and I saw the shame on his face as he told me he purchased the card, along with other fake documents, for me. "Don't show it to other people," he warned.
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. And that means living a different kind of reality. [New York Times Magazine, 6/22/11]
Immigration Attorney: Vargas "Has Taken A Huge Personal Risk By Coming Forward ... It Could Lead To Prosecution And Or Deportation Proceedings." From a June 22 Atlantic Wire article:
[O]uting himself as an illegal immigrant could greatly influence the way he lives his life, according to David Leopold, an immigration attorney and former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Leopold says Vargas's article amounts to a confession of several offenses at the state and federal level.
"I think he has taken a huge personal risk by coming forward," says Leopold. "For example, he admits that he checked 'U.S. citizen' on his I-9 forms. This is a serious civil violation for which there is no waiver under the immigration law as written. If it is construed as a false claim to US citizenship, it could lead to criminal sanctions. The same would hold true for knowingly using a false social security card, driver's license etc. There could be a statute of limitations defense depending on when these occurred. But, nevertheless, it could lead to prosecution and or deportation proceedings."
There are also ramifications for Vargas's professional career to consider. "Obviously if they know he's undocumented they can't pay," said Leopold, referring to media companies interested in hiring Vargas and publishing his work in the future. Throughout his professional life, Vargas has sustained himself through his journalism, working as a staff reporter for The Washington Post, which he left for The Huffington Post in 2009, and writing freelance pieces (of particular note, his sprawling profile of Mark Zuckerberg for The New Yorker last September). Now working as a staff reporter or even a freelancer will be much more difficult. "You can't hire an independent contractor knowing he's undocumented," Leopold tells The Atlantic Wire. "But federal officials won't prevent him from speaking out. He can write without pay. He can publish online. His First Amendment rights are still intact." [The Atlantic Wire, 6/22/11]
Vargas Spokesperson: "Jose Recognizes There Are No Guarantees About What Comes Next." In an update to its June 22 article, the Atlantic Wire reported: "Asked if Vargas has consulted attorneys about the legal risks of his disclosures, his spokesperson Matthew Hiltzik said, 'Jose recognizes there are no guarantees about what comes next.' " [The Atlantic Wire, 6/22/11]
Right-Wing Media Respond: "Kick The Lying, Illegal Alien ... Out"
Drudge Resorted To Slurring Vargas As "Illegal Alien." From the Drudge Report:
[Drudge Report, 6/22/11]
Fox Nation Slammed Vargas With Loaded Term "Illegal." From Fox Nation:
[Fox Nation, 6/22/11]
Daily Mail's Surber: "Kick The Lying, Illegal Alien Jose Antonio Vargas Out." Don Surber called for kicking "the lying, illegal alien Jose Antonio Vargas out" of the country, writing:
Good reporter or not, kick the lying, illegal alien Jose Antonio Vargas out.
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. [Charleston, West Virginia, Daily Mail, 6/22/11]
Glenn Beck's The Blaze: Vargas "Duck[ed] Respect For Our Nation's Laws In Order To Pursue Personal Ambitions." At Glenn Beck's website, The Blaze, assistant editor Meredith Jessup wrote that she was "offended on a professional level" by Vargas' story, adding that "[o]n 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." She further wrote that "it is professionally irresponsible for [Vargas] to portray himself as THE story of illegal immigration in America." From her piece:
I tried to imagine what his life has been like living in America as an illegal immigrant and the circumstances which must have forced his family to seek better life in America. My feelings of any sympathy, however, were quickly overcome by resentment. 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.
He may have a Pulitzer, but that doesn't change the fact that the law has been ignored. Going on television to flaunt the fact he knowingly dodged the law, ostensibly lied to his employers, committed identity fraud, etc. did little to assuage my resentment having come from a family who came to America by knocking on the front door, not sneaking in the back.
I was even more offended on a professional level. There's little I despise more than when "journalists" use their position to a) drive a story and/or b) insert themselves into the story or try to make the story all about them. Not only is Vargas using his public soapbox to draw attention to his own plight, he's using it to push a political agenda.
While Vargas may be an illegal immigrant, it is professionally irresponsible for him to portray himself as THE story of illegal immigration in America. [The Blaze, 6/22/11]
Pajamas Media Used Vargas Story To Push Claim That Unauthorized Immigrants "End Up Hurting America." In a post on Pajamas Media titled, "About the New York Times' Pulitzer-winning illegal alien," Bryan Preston, a former producer on The Laura Ingraham Show and communications director for the Texas Republican Party, wrote:
He took at least two jobs that otherwise would have gone to others who are here legally.
He used false documents -- a fake green card, a fake Social Security card, and a fake passport to get the fake Social Security number.
Despite having lived in America for over 14 years, he has never bothered himself to get right with the legal system.
Look, I'm glad that Mr. Vargas has confirmed that America really is still the land of opportunity. He is obviously very smart, smart enough to land and keep good jobs, and smart enough to figure out how to game the system for years. But no one should kid themselves: Aside from the crimes he has committed to stay here, Vargas is atypical. Illegal aliens tend to be drains on our resources. I know of one small county here in Texas that has a 30-slot jail, and right now all five inmates there are illegal aliens awaiting transfers and perhaps deportation. INS ICE has left one of them languishing since November, on the county's tab. How many other counties nationwide have similar problems? The state of California alone spends nearly $1 billion per year housing illegal alien inmates. So for every Jose Antonio Vargas out there, there are dozens and maybe hundreds of illegal aliens who not only flout immigration law as a matter of routine, as he did, but they also end up hurting America in other ways. [Pajamas Media, 6/22/11]
Ace of Spades Took Opportunity To Attack DREAM Legislation. A post at the Ace of Spades blog responded to the essay by attacking the DREAM Act and accused Vargas of engaging in identity fraud. From the post:
It's the usual tale of woe and unfairness by some over achiever who is supposed to represent the norm. Seriously, if you ever listen to Harry Reid or Dick Durbin shilling for the DREAM Act you'd think that every valedictorian in American is an illegal alien. or war hero. Anyway, this particular poster child for the horrors of immigration rules is now a reporter, writer and filmmaker.
So far his "contributions" are to engage in identity fraud. On behalf of all Americans...um, thanks.
Also, I don't know if the SSN this guy used was someone else's (it's his, I should read my own pull quotes) or not but identity theft is a crime and not a victimless one either. [Ace of Spaces, 6/23/11]
Business Insider To "Anti-Immigration Folks": "Should He Be Deported?" In an article highlighting Vargas' story, Business Insider solicited input solely from "anti-immigration folks." The article asked: "Should he be deported?" [Business Insider, 6/22/11]
NewsBusters On Wash. Post Hiring Of Vargas: "We Probably Employ A Pile Of 'Undocumented' People." In an article about Vargas, NewsBusters wrote:
Vargas, 30, lied to a string of media outlets about his immigration status with a fake driver's license from Oregon. He came over from the Philippines at age 12. (Vargas told the truth to Post editor Peter Perl, a mentor, but he wouldn't comment now.) In the Post story on this by Paul Farhi, Post spokeswoman Kris Coratti offered a no-comment on Vargas's employment at the paper: "We will not comment on individual personnel matters out of respect for the privacy of our employees."
What that no-comment seems to say: "We don't want to condemn lying to us about your immigration status since we probably employ a pile of 'undocumented' people and are too liberal a media outlet to seem scandalized."
It might also be suggested that Vargas was hired smack-dab out of college in 2004 in part because he was Filipino and gay -- an affirmative action two-fer. The illegal status might have only added to the allure. In 2006, the Post egregiously celebrated large Washington rallies for amnesty for illegal aliens. [Newsbusters, 6/23/11]