Category: immigration

Who is Jose Vargas and why is he still here?

Jose Antonio Vargas as his desk (Image: Bonnie Jo Mount/Washington Post)
Jose Antonio Vargas at his desk (Image: Bonnie Jo Mount/Washington Post)

I know who Jose Antonio Vargas is. Now. But a few weeks ago, before CNN started hawking his autobiographical film “Documented,” I didn’t recall ever hearing of him.

He’s a Filipino by birth and was sent here by his mother when he was 12 years old. Illegally. With a fake green card. He’s now 33 and “came out” as an illegal in 2011. He’s become an activist in immigration activities all over the country and started Define American, a non-profit organization intended to open a dialogue about the criteria people use to determine who is an American. (Not complicated, Jose. An American is a citizen of the US.)

He made a big deal of going to McAllen, TX, to speak out on behalf of the current wave of illegal immigrants swarming across our southern border. And yesterday as he was boarding a plane to leave, he was, finally, detained by immigration officials. He was released a few hours later, like many others caught and detained at the border, with an order to appear for a future court date with an immigration judge.

Why did it take this long for him to be treated like other illegals? Apparently because he’s a big deal. He’s a well-known journalist who has even won a Pulitzer prize for his work. Isn’t that special? And because he’s special, he’s been getting away with openly flouting our immigration laws since 2011. A public figure, a celebrity, an example to the world that you can come here illegally and announce it openly and still an impotent US government won’t do anything.

I don’t know when his immigration hearing is. But when it comes, I hope the judge deports him — as an example to the world that we don’t play favorites, we don’t look the other way just because someone is well known or has won an award, and that even though it may take a while, the law will be enforced. Letting him stay will only encourage more to come illegally, and it’s a slap in the face to the millions of immigrants who did the right thing, got in line, and entered the country legally.

Read Vargas’s story at Time Magazine.