America For Beginners

Bringing American culture closer to new immigrants

Jose Antonio Vargas. A Hero or a Villain of Illegal Immigration?

In a June 2011 New York Times Magazine essay Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, came out as an undocumented immigrant. He revealed coming to the US at the age of 12, unaware until the age of 16 that his immigration status was not valid, and living and working on false documents for two decades.

He states that he revealed his status in order to promote dialogue about the United States’ broken immigration system, and advocate for the DREAM Act, which would help children in similar circumstances have a path to citizenship available to them. Wikipedia

Clearly, the article has made a lot of commotion. What’s even more interesting is that many people have used Jose Antonio Vargas’s case as an argument to support their own political views. Many stones are being thrown all around in an attempt to claim a particular group of people directly (public officials assisting Vargas in getting documents) or ideologically (leftists and liberals) responsible.

Curiously enough, the majority seems to be against Jose Antonio Vargas and by majority I mean:

  •  Republicans who didn’t hesitate to add a strictly political flavor to the discussion:

 One of those revelatory stories that tends to confirm some of the worst charges against liberals and the Old Media.

Like a good, militant leftist, Hyland has proclaimed her intentions to help even more lawbreakers if she can.

  • Some fellow journalists who not only seriously doubt Vargas’s professional credibility but also consider him an overall immoral person:

Well, depending on one’s point of view, he may or may not be an American, but with his actions it most certainly doesn’t seem that he’s a good American, says Warner Todd Huston in his article.

In his now famous article Vargas writes:

I remember the very first instinct was, okay, that’s it, get rid of the accent… Because I just thought to myself, you know, I couldn’t give anybody any reason to ever doubt that I’m an American.

The common reaction to those revelations is something like: “so, you fooled us, Vargas, all this time you had no right to be you”…  A perfect illustration to this attitude is the following comment:

Apparently Mr. Fischer believes that the “American dream” includes breaking dozens of laws in order to fool people into accepting you.

Isn’t it too much to expect from a scared 16-year-old when he just finds out about his illegal status? I mean, yes, in a perfect world he would have gone to the immigration office right away and started a new life in the Philippines.

The most ardent supporters of the journalist are young kids in exactly the same situation –those who have been living in the States since early childhood, illegally, graduated from high school/college and are about to get deported. These people identify with Vargas and join his DREAM Act campaign. One would think that all current/former immigrants at least sympathize with the situation. Apparently, this is not the case.

Many former immigrants contribute to common hysteria and ask such questions as:

What about all those who took (and are now taking) the LEGAL path to citizenship?

So, basically, people who used to be immigrants themselves hate the idea of the DREAM Act just because it might help people like Vargas go through less pain than THEY had to.

The readers’ comments can be split in two groups: those who fully support Vargas and think that he has deserved American citizenship anyway and those who say that immigrants like Vargas “rape the resources”.

My question is what exactly Vargas is guilty of?

  • Breaking the immigration law (plus fraud, forgery, etc.)
  • Years of lying to his “fellow citizens”, employers, readers.
  • Biased journalism
  • Taking a job from an American
  • Pushing the DREAM Act (there’s a widespread opinion that the act is going to encourage illegal immigration)

 I find the first one absolutely legitimate. Though initially it wasn’t Vargas’s decision to enter the country illegally, he’s still responsible for his activity years after he had realized his undocumented status.

The accusations concerning lies and biased opinion are rather controversial. His illegal status has definitely become a part of his identity and consciously or unconsciously was influencing his journalistic discourse and opinion. Nevertheless, Vargas has been raised and educated in America and culture – wise he is no less an American than any legal citizen.

As for stealing the jobs, it’s complicated and should better be discussed in a different article. His career history, however, makes me think that, in a way, Vargas has contributed more than he has “stolen”.

The DREAM Act is the most misinterpreted fragment of the story. Many articles I’ve read refer to the DREAM Act as an illegal immigration encouragement whereas, in fact, a very specific group of current immigrants is eligible for it.

This bill sadly does nothing to fix our immigration system. It is a Band-Aid and maybe worse, it will provide an incentive for future illegal immigration,” says Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

Vargas, who has started an advocacy group, Define American, is promoting passage of the DREAM Act, federal legislation that would grant permanent residency to young illegal immigrants who came to the United States as minors, says The Seattle Times

It’s not only about young illegal immigrants; it’s about young illegals who meet particular criteria:

This bill would provide conditional permanent residency to certain illegal alien students who graduate from US high schools, who are of good moral character, arrived in the U.S. legally or illegally as minors, and have been in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill’s enactment. If they were to complete two years in the military or two years at a four-year institution of higher learning, the students would obtain temporary residency for a six-year period. Within the six-year period, a qualified student must have “acquired a degree from an institution of higher education in the United States or [have] completed at least 2 years, in good standing, in a program for a bachelor’s degree or higher degree in the United States,” or have “served in the armed services for at least 2 years and, if discharged, [have] received an honorable discharge.  Wikipedia 

Nevertheless, some readers get really emotional about Vargas’s case:

 This whole globalism, multiculturalism, and non-sovereignty is just a way to install one world Socialism and the destruction of Western Civilization by the barbarian hordes.

Give the Pulitzer Prize back. Liars don’t deserve it.

He, and the Left can spin this story anyway they want but, the truth is this illegal alien parasite entered our country illegally, and is holding a job that should have been filled by an American citizen! There is no justification, for this illegal clown to spend one more day in this country. Why hasn’t this illegal trespassing parasite been arrested and deported?!

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it a textbook scapegoating case? Somehow the conversation has shifted from the original case to the topic of undocumented immigrants in general, elections, unemployment, and so on.

The law should be respected. I truly believe that otherwise this country(and any other country) will fall apart. Fact. Jose Antonio Vargas is a talented young professional with really messed-up immigration law issues. Fact. He is neither a hero, nor a villain.  Consequently, he is fully responsible for what he did. He should not, however, be held responsible and judged by the public for what his parents and relatives did, or what other illegal immigrants do or don’t do, or what politicians say to get more points in a debate.

Similarly, the DREAM Act is by no means an open border policy but a measure aimed at helping a certain group of already educated and already “in the country” young people whose parents made some bad decisions for them.

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America For Beginners Blog by Anna Kudryashova is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia License.


3 comments on “Jose Antonio Vargas. A Hero or a Villain of Illegal Immigration?

  1. The Culturatist
    July 7, 2011

    Wow! This is a great post. I hate to say this, but to me he is a hero. But, I understand where some people would say that he is not… I know of people who were smuggled here and they were trying to escape their terrible loving conditions. I did not know until they’d been here for years… but you get my point…

  2. America For Beginners
    July 7, 2011

    i know…such a controversial topic. It’s happening all around the world though. There’s a similar story of a Norwegian writer who turned out to be an illegal immigrant. Here’s a link

  3. Ron
    July 7, 2011

    What a complex issue! Thanks for your brave analysis here in this post. I suppose Jose Antonio should make plans to return to the Philippines, or to begin processing a legal immigration into the U.S. It’s easier to think about his particular case than it is to think about the whole immigration issue. For that, I’ve still not heard any good solutions.

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This entry was posted on July 2, 2011 by in Review and tagged , , , .

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